Categories
Film Notes

Film Notes #8: Working Girl (1988)

* SPOILER WARNING: Details about the film will be revealed *

Mike Nichols’ romantic comedy about a plucky secretary from Staten Island is Number 8 in my 30 day Film Notes series.

For newcomers, this month-long series of posts involves me watching a film every day for 30 days.

The following rules apply:

  • It must be a film I have already seen.
  • I must make notes whilst I’m watching it.
  • Pauses are allowed but the viewing must all be one session.
  • It can’t be a cinema release.

The point is to capture my instant thoughts about a movie and my overall film diet for 30 days, as well as post interesting links to the film in question.

Here are my notes on Working Girl (1988) which I watched on Film4 via PVR on Wednesday 29th March.

  • Mike Nichols directed two films released in 1988, the other was Biloxi Blues.
  • Love the snap of how we go straight from the Fox logo right into the opening chord of Carly Simon’s song.
  • Brilliant opening helicopter shot, as the camera swings around the Statue of Liberty to reveal the Twin Towers.
  • Nice fade on to the Staten Island ferry that maintains the smoothness of shot from the chopper – maybe a Steadicam on a built set?
  • When watching films of this period I find it very hard to accept that the World Trade Centre is not there any more.
  • Opening titles reveal the serious talent that worked on this movie: Mike Nichols, Michael Ballhaus (DP), Sam O’Steen (editor), Ann Roth (costumes) and Carly Simon (song).
  • Interestingly Harrison Ford and Sigourney Weaver get top billing over Melanie Griffith – maybe that proves the theme of the film?
  • It is almost a companion film to WALL STREET (1987) – although a comedy-drama, it is about yuppies and the struggle to get promoted in late 1980s New York, and two hungry outsiders (Tess McGill/Bud Fox) who ultimately betray a mentor figure (Katharine Parker/Gordon Gecko).
  • Good screenwriting in the opening scene  – dialogue reveals early on that Tess is thinking of evening classes on her birthday (shows her determination and desire early on)
  • It is a kaleidoscope of 80s fashions on the office floor.
  • Very good contemporary costume work by Ann Roth – sometimes it is easy to forget how hard it is to create a non-period film.
  • Oscars for Best Costume are so often awarded to the obvious period movies.
  • A pre-X Files David Duchovny can be seen behind Alec Baldwin in the surprise birthday scene
  • Alec Baldwin as the Staten Island boyfriend and Kevin Spacey as the coke snorting, champagne swilling arbitrageur shows the depth of talent in the cast.
  • Nichols and his casting director Juliet Taylor have a great eye for talent
  • Drug taking, porn watching and sexism on Wall Street – this is all too relevant to today’s banks. Only now the taxpayer is paying for it!
  • Tess’ revenge on the office floor is brilliant because it really hits Oliver Platt where it hurts (insulting his manhood)
  • Olympia Dukakis in a small but notable cameo as the personnel director (the year her cousin Michael lost out on the Presidency to Bush Snr.)
  • Tess is 30 years old  and it was clever touch to have Sigourney Weaver’s character a few days younger than Melanie Griffith – it gives their relationship an extra tension and Tess more motivation
  • Weaver’s dialogue is great: I wonder how many people were tempted to use that trick of saying “I’m in a meeting rather on another line”
  • Katharine: “Dress shabbily, they notice the dress. Dress impeccably, they notice the woman – Coco Chanel!”
  • Clothes actually important to the story – not only are they are sign of status but an indicator of Tess’ social mobility.
  • Nora Dunn – another fine casting choice. Look out for her as the Christiane Amanpour type in THREE KINGS (1999).
  • Tess reads a lot because “you never know where the big ideas might come from”. Good advice for anyone.
  • The lighting suggests Weaver’s corner office may be a set (if I was watching it in HD I could probably tell)
  • Sam O’Steen’s editing is impeccably smooth – no wonder he Nichols kept returning to him after his legendary work on THE GRADUATE (1967).
  • Weaver’s red dress in the dumplings scene is absolutely striking.
  • Katherine: “Never burn bridges. Today’s junior prick, tomorrow’s junior partner”
  • Tess has a radio idea! Does this tie in with the numerous mergers in the late 80s? Mel Karmazin, Infinity and all that? Or was that later?
  • The uncomfortable reactions from Baldwin towards the idea that Tess has a female boss are well played.
  • It is so perfect that Weaver’s character has a skiing accident – the yuppie boss brought low by the ultimate yuppie sport.
  • Great production design for Weaver’s apartment – the Warhol painting, exercise bike and personal dictaphone all nice touches.
  • Nice use of sound design to reveal key plot point e.g. Katharine has lied and stolen Tess’ idea
  • Early use of email in a film on a IBM PS/2 70 computer  (this was two years before the world wide web was invented!)
  • When Tess catches her boyfriend having sex notice the clever repeated line of dialogue. Baldwin: “No class?” Griffith: “No class”. The question and statement reveal a lot about their characters.
  • For Tess the Staten Island Ferry seems to be her equivalent of the beach at the end of THE 400 BLOWS (1959) – a place where she finds solace in solitude
  • We get Katherine’s full CV in one shot – a typically status obsessed Who’s Who entry.
  • The whole film is basically a morality play about the power a secretary has over her boss – kind of like WALL STREET (1987) meets MY FAIR LADY (1964), but in reverse.
  • The fact that Tess is wearing Katherine’s dress is nice – functions as revenge for stealing her idea and also highlights their respective gulf in salary (Tess has to drop a Valium on learning the price “$6,000!”)
  • Joan Cusack is terrific in a supporting role as Tess friend
  • Tess on justifying cutting her locks off: “You want to be taken seriously, you need serious hair”
  • Harrison Ford – who had top billing remember – only appears about 30 mins into the movie.
  • It is a convenient movie coincidence that Tess and Jack hook up so quickly, but maybe he was subconsciously attracted to Katherine’s dress (which Tess is wearing).
  • Ford was great in the 1980s – in the Indy series and here he showed comic timing, screen presence and old school charm.
  • Note the contrast between Ford’s old school gentleman and Weaver’s hypocritical boss
  • Nice shot composition as Ford offers Tess a nightcap
  • Mercifully Nichols spares us a jazz-flavoured sex scene (all the rage in the 1980s) by tastefully cutting straight to the morning after
  • Nice zoom shot to indicate Tess twigging that she has just spent the night with one of the guys around the table.
  • Is the stock repurchase Tess suggests the same as the leveraged buyouts Gordon Gecko (and actual Wall Street guys were doing).
  • Joan Cusack plays the “coffee, tea, me?” bit perfectly. I imagine Nichols knew it would get an audience reaction.
  • Tess: “Why didn’t you say you were you last night?” Key line which applies to Tess as much as Jack.
  • Jack’s gift to Tess actually means something (although he doesn’t know it yet).
  • Tess’ costume change (“you look different”) marks the distance between her new career and old life
  • Thankfully Nichols resisted the temptation of not having Tess actually wear a red dress to Chris Deburgh’s Lady in Red.
  • Baldwin proposal scene is splendidly awkward.
  • Ford getting changed in his office (and getting applause from his co-workers) is a great visual gag (again the motif of clothes – so key in the workplace).
  • Tess: “I’m not going to spend the rest of my life working my ass off and getting nowhere just because I followed rules that I had nothing to do with setting up.” Let’s get this engraved somewhere. Seriously.
  • Katherine is deliciously saucy in the hospital bed scene. We just know she has done something filthy off-screen with that doctor.
  • Street scenes in New York are where the ADs really earn their dough – you can easily spot extras staring into the camera
  • It’s nice that Jack has some insecurities about deal making that mirror Tess’.
  • Ann Roth’s costumes in the wedding scene are brilliant – note that Tess is wearing a white dress at the wedding but it blends in anyway.
  • Ricki Lake has a cameo at the wedding.
  • This is a wonderful riff on the conventional movie wedding – it plays like a heist scene crossed with a business deal and the acting from Ford and Griffith is delightful
  • Notice how the short scene when they celebrate the deal is free of dialogue – just a passionate kiss
  • Sex scene reflects the occasional awkwardness of love making (e.g. Men have trouble getting their shirts off as the cuffs stick)
  • Simple but effective compositions in the bedroom scene
  • Katharine returns almost like a spoilt child – is the gorilla toy a King Kong reference?
  • Ford and Weaver’s chemistry is fantastic – you really do get the feeling that they’ve been a couple.
  • Solid visual comedy with Griffith eavesdropping on the unsuspecting couple in the bedroom.
  • Katherine: “Can Little Jack come out to play?” LOL.
  • Filofax provides key plot turning point – Katherine is betrayed by Tess (parallels to the way Gecko finds out about Bud’s betrayal)
  • Ford and Griffith convincingly say “I love you” to each other – not an easy thing for any actor ever to do.
  • Note the Arthurian round table, which might reflect Bosco’s good heart.
  • The analogy Philip Bosco’s character makes about the deal with the vehicle stuck in the tunnel is great and reflects the whole story of the film (i.e. Tess is the 10 year old girl who has the good idea)
  • Weaver is splendidly villainous in the climactic boardroom scene
  • Beautiful shot of Tess and the Statue of Liberty at magic hour as she contemplates what might have been.
  • Tess turquoise dress and Baldwin’s tuxedo are more examples of Ann Roth’s costume work. Shades of EDUCATING RITA (1984) in that scene – possibly an influence on the whole script?
  • Katharine: “Oh my god. She’ll stop at nothing!”
  • When Tess does the elevator pitch to Philip Bosco and refers to the Forbes and Page Six articles the talk show host she mentions (“Bobby Stein”) is clearly referring to Howard Stern.
  • The climactic comeuppance for Katharine is beautifully written and played by all concerned (“get your bony ass out of my sight”).
  • Tess on why she didn’t explain the truth earlier: “No one was going to listen. Not to me. I mean, you can bend the rules plenty once you get upstairs but not when you’re trying to get there. And if you’re someone like me, you can’t get there without bending the rules.”
  • Lunchbox briefcase that Jack gives Tess echoes his earlier briefcase present.
  • Really great closing scene. Plays with our expectations and the characters at the same time – that’s proper filmmaking.
  • Tess is also told to hit SHIFT-ESC for her schedule on her IBM DOS PC. Early days for office computers.
  • A great closing scene to a movie can cover all manner of sins. To a really good one it just gives the audience an extra lift e.g. BACK TO THE FUTURE (1985)
  • Tess: “I expect you to call me Tess. I don’t expect you fetch me coffee unless you’re getting some for yourself. The rest, we’ll just make up as we go along. OK?”
  • Film ends on a nice note of female solidarity to balance out all the feuding with Katharine – it also echoes an earlier scene but you get the feeling that Tess is really going to be the boss Katherine should have been.
  • Old school optical effect for the closing shot of Tess in window?
  • Nice symmetry to the beginning and end of the film – camera move pulls back to reveal Tess as part of the Manhattan skyline. This contrasts with the opening where it swooped in on here going to work.

Categories
Film Notes

Film Notes #7: Etre et Avoir (2002)

* SPOILER WARNING: Details about the film will be revealed *

Nicolas Philibert‘s documentary about a small rural school in France is Number 7 in my 30 day Film Notes series.

For newcomers, the deal is that I must watch a film every day and make notes about it, with the following rules:

  1. It must be a film I have already seen.
  2. I must make notes whilst I’m watching it.
  3. Pauses are allowed but the viewing must all be one session.
  4. It can’t be a cinema release.

The point is to capture my instant thoughts about a movie and my overall film diet for 30 days, as well as post interesting links to the film in question.

Here are my notes on Etre et Avoir (2002) (English translation: “To Be and to Have”) I watched on watched on a DVD on Wednesday 28th March.

  • Acclaimed French documentary about a primary school in the Auvergne region.
  • Very sparse and simple opening titles reflect the style of what is to come.
  • Shot of the turtles waddling about the classroom unexpectedly funny because it is real.
  • Opens in winter – was this shot over a six month period?
  • I’d forgotten that French van headlights are yellow
  • The school is in Saint-Étienne-sur-Usson in the Auvergne region of France
  • Camera movements very still and editing very considered, presumably not to freak out the kids
  • Mr Lopez looks remarkably like Steve Jobs
  • Opening lesson of drawing and discussion is quite soothing to watch
  • Bit where kid says he’s seen a ghost and scares the girl opposite him is charming
  • One can’t watch this without thinking of Antoine in THE 400 BLOWS (1959) even though the teacher in Truffaut’s film is a dictator
  • Philibert captures a lot of the human drama of a primary school classroom
  • Natural lighting had to be used to keep the pupils reactions real, but one wonders how the film differed from the unfilmed lessons
  • The way Lopez talks to Jojo about the fish and the purpose of school is remarkable – patient, considered and wise
  • English schools can learn a lot from the cooking scenes – notice how Lopez doesn’t mind mistakes and injects genuine fun into them.
  • Lopez mediating the fight between Julien and Olivier is visually interesting – notice how the camera stays on the two boys and we only hear the teacher.
  • The shot is held for an unusually long time – was this out of necessity (e.g. conditions of filming in a school) or a stylistic choice?
  • Hard to watch the kid on the verge of tears – shows what a tough time childhood can be
  • Do five year olds drive tractors in France?!
  • Kid at kitchen table learning pointless maths exercises brings back flashbacks!
  • Maybe every generation of parent has to cope with hopeless arithmetic set for their children?
  • Mr Lopez seems genuinely interested in the fact that one of his pupils wants to be a vet – why can’t all careers advice be like this?!
  • Getting pupils to draw and think about numbers is a very good idea
  • This was presumably shot in the winter of 2001-02 as it premiered at Cannes in May 2002
  • The problems the parent discusses of her child being distant are handled by Lopez with a tactful wisdom (also highlight the long term dilemma of teaching maths!)
  • Lopez says he’s been teaching dictations for 35 years and at this particular school for 20.
  • The discussion of Tahiti and Brittany is classic
  • “Middle school” seems such a long way off – funny how life divides up into different periods
  • Child washing paint off his hands and a wasp provided the poster
  • Lopez handles the Jojo pushing incident like King Solomon
  • Kid of five preparing pasta! No wonder the French have the best chefs in the world
  • Lopez talking to camera about 60 mins in is almost a monologue scene, breaking with the verite style
  • He clearly is a natural born teacher – loves the job and finds it genuinely rewarding.
  • Lopez’s father was a Spanish immigrant from Andalucia – maybe he left because of the Civil War?
  • This part of the film should actually be used in teacher recruitment.
  • Kids using photocopier unexpectedly hilarious – even adults still get things upside down.
  • Despite Lopez’s explanation I still don’t understand the whole masculine/feminine thing in the French language.
  • I realise language evolved this way but does it really make sense to apply gender differences to objects like windows or pens?
  • Nice cut to the photocopier repair man, hinting that the two pupils broke it earlier.
  • College sequence brings memories of making the leap from primary to secondary school.
  • Film accurately reflects how massive that seems at the time.
  • Discussion of counting billions between Lopez and Jojo is actually philosophically interesting.
  • Love the way Lopez handles Julien in the garden – his father presumably has throat cancer? – but he handles the situation with his customary wisdom and sensitivity
  • Natalie’s birthday is a nice small snapshot (one of many)
  • The shot of rainbow suggests the filmmakers were either a) unbearably patient b) lucky or c) it was a stolen shot
  • Jojo on the train: “What does derail mean?”
  • Idyllic picnic in the French countryside.
  • New pupils arriving (so small!) show the cycle
  • Two Valentins reflects the fact that classrooms often contain more than one name
  • The way Lopez handles the infant boy crying for his mum is very cool indeed
  • Scene where Lopez deals with Natalie’s shyness contains more drama than many features.
  • The leaving scene makes French kissing on the cheeks seem normal (even to an Englishman).
  • Shot on film rather than digital
  • Used natural light because spot lights would have freaked out the kids
  • There are brief moments when you can catch the kids glancing into the camera
  • Philibert wanted to make a film out of the drama of “life’s little nothings”
  • Childhood is a very big deal whilst you are actually living through it – the film reflects this
  • He never does films “about” but rather “with” – desires to tell a story without heavy handed narration or didactic voiceover
  • This makes it very different from the instructional form of documentary that we often see on TV
  • The film is a experiential reconstruction of events rather than
  • Filmmaking choices were often made on the hoof
  • Sensitive film stock used along with wide angle lenses (and presumably quiet Arriflex cameras)
  • It was never intended to be an inspiration to teachers, but it may have that effect on viewers
  • Patience, ability to listen and sense of calm are key to Lopez’s success as a teacher
  • His words
  • Note how pupils are encouraged to help one another – helps build confidence and solidarity
  • Philibert thinks the documentary form can have a poetic and metaphoric quality rather than just showing facts
  • The film is a wonderful counterblast to the notion of teachers as lazy or useless (the standard right wing line about the profession)
  • Ultimately it is about how the transmission of knowledge and experience can be a wonderful thing.
  • The real life postscript to the film is incredibly sad.
  • I prefer to remember his words as he trims his hedge: “Everything that you put in, the children always return it.”

 

Categories
Film Notes

Film Notes #6: The Omen (1976)

* SPOILER WARNING: Plot details will be revealed *

Richard Donner’s horror film about a biblical prophecy forms the sixth film in my 30 day film watching experiment.

For newcomers, the deal is that I must watch a film every day and make notes about it, with the following rules:

  1. It must be a film I’ve already seen.
  2. I must make notes whilst I’m watching it.
  3. Pauses are allowed but the viewing must all be one session.
  4. It can’t be a cinema release.

The point is to capture my instant thoughts about a movie and my overall film diet for 30 days, as well as post interesting links to the film in question.

Here are my notes on The Omen (1976) which I watched on watched on a PVR on Monday 12th March.

  • This was green lit on the back of the enormous success of The Exorcist (1973)
  • Nice font on the credits – big blocky and elegant – and the creepy image of a Damien’s shadow forming an inverted cross.
  • The film starts straight off with a movie taboo – the death of a child – and the pacing is very good. No dicking around, straight into the story.
  • In a way, Ambassador Thorn (Gregory Peck) reasons for adopting the baby and lying to his wife are understandable.
  • There’s a lot going on in the shot of Peck, the baby, the nun and the priest – interesting composition that fills the screen and reflected .
  • What was exactly going on with the hospital in Rome? Didn’t anyone notice a Jackal giving birth? 😉
  • Donner a very underrated director, his background in television gave him a solid grounding in storytelling.
  • Like so many films of the 1970s that I first saw on TV in the 1980s, it is interesting to see it in proper aspect ratio (2:35).
  • Widescreen lensing and compositions are more interesting than many modern horrors.
  • Richard Donner is actually a visually interesting director who just happens to work in mainstream cinema.
  • Gregory Peck and Lee Remick make a nice couple – Peck is actually looks like a US ambassador
  • “You know, you could be too sexy for the White House” – Peck’s character is not wrong when he says this to Remick.
  • Good use of fades to denote scene changes and strange – but very efficient – photo montage to take us up to the birthday party scene.
  • When you stop to think about it, the scene where the babysitter hangs herself in front of a party of schoolchildren is seriously messed up (talk about a party pooper).
  • The sound effect with the satanic dog is unnecessary.
  • US embassy in the 1970s very different to the fortress it now resembles post 9/11. Peck’s office is a convincing location – would probably be some crappy green screen work now.
  • Patrick Troughton is perfectly cast – he looks like the definition of a haunted man.
  • The ambassadorial country house is the old Guinness estate near Woking.
  • Billie Whitelaw is effectively creepy as the nanny. Shrewd to cast one of Samuel Beckett’s favourite actors in a supporting role.
  • Damien’s freakout is at Guildford Cathedral. Effective scenes that shows that a horror set-piece doesn’t have to involve a death.
  • Good build up in the Windsor Safari Park sequence – first the giraffes and then the baboons! Reminds me of the animal freakouts in the US version of THE RING (2002) and its sequel THE RING 2 (2005).
  • Jerry Goldsmith’s score – in particular the piece ‘Ave Satani’ – is frequently mistaken for Carl Orff’s ‘Carmina Burana’.
  • The film cleverly plays on post-natal fears – there is a lot of focus on Lee Remick’s doubting herself as a mother.
  • Widescreen compositions of Troughton’s face in the Putney Bridge meeting are ace – DP Gilbert Taylor also shot REPULSION (1965) and STAR WARS (1977).
  • The biblical rhyme is pretty creepy.
  • Note the outside lighting changes for the satanic storm that immediately whips up after Peck leaves and features some old school practical effects.
  • The move Peck plays with Damien by holding his hands is rather funky.
  • Was that sequence where Cathy falls an influence on THE SHINING (1980)? E.g. kid on bike
  • The fact that Damien lets his (adopted) mother fall and subsequent bit where Cathy says to Robert “don’t let him kill me” is kind of chilling.
  • Empty spaces of the manison are depicted well.
  • Editing style is a reminder that you can maintain pace and tension without the need of quick cutting on an Avid.
  • Script by David Seltzer is very tight and well paced – events click into place and there are several memorable moments e.g. David Warner showing Peck the ‘marked’ photograph
  • The biblical hokum could be ridiculous but the way Donner handles all the elements really sells it.
  • Burnt priest and subsequent graveyard scene very effective. Another creepy image – this time of a infants skeleton, which reminds us of the child murder that began the whole plot.
  • Graveyeard scene is almost certainly a studio soundstage but is good work from the production design team.
  • Cathy’s death reminds me of the opening of Donner’s LETHAL WEAPON (1987) – also featuring a woman slamming into a vehicle from a great height.
  • Peck delivers some fine acting on hearing of his wife’s death – nice shot of his head as he recites the poem and the anounces he wants Damien to die.
  • More great location work in the Israel sequence.
  • Did the bit where the photographer’s head gets cut off through by ‘accident’ influenced the entire FINAL DESTINATION franchise? It really is spectacular and shows what can be down with a fake head and editing.
  • Peck’s doubts about kiiling a child are eminently reasonable.
  • Interesting (almost) wordless sequence where Gregory Peck goes back to murder Damien – only dialogue spoken is when Billie Whitelaw says “Run, Damien, Run!”
  • The church at the end is in Staines.
  • Bit where Damien says “please Daddy, no!” is very clever as it puts you right in Robert Thorn’s shoes and plays on his doubts about killing a child.
  • The graveyard at the end is Brookwood Cemetery, one of the largest in Europe.
  • Apparently Donner struggled to get the kid playing Damien to smile at the end.
  • The idea that Damien is heir to the US presidency is a highly effective pay off.

Categories
Film Notes

Film Notes #5: Wall Street (1987)

* SPOILER WARNING: Plot details will be revealed *

Oliver Stone’s 1987 drama about corruption in American finance forms the fifth part of my Film Notes series.

For newcomers, the deal is that I must watch a film every day and make notes about it, with the following rules:

  • It must be a film I’ve already seen.
  • I must make notes whilst I’m watching it.
  • Pauses are allowed but the viewing must all be one session.
  • It can’t be a cinema release.

The point is to capture my instant thoughts about a movie and my overall film diet for 30 days, as well as post interesting links to the film in question.

Here are my notes on Wall Street (1987) which I watched on a Blu-ray on Monday 26th March (today).

  • Opening sequence is tinged with a post 9/11 sadness as it features prominent shots of the Twin Towers (I last saw this film in October 2000)
  • Big, old style Hollywood fonts on the titles
  • Hal Holbrook’s character is based on Oliver Stone’s father who was a stockbroker
  • The green text and lack of GUIs on the computer screens is noticeable
  • But the film reflects how technology even then was changing the nature of finance
  • Before the subprime crisis of the late 2000s, there was the crazy period in the 1980s
  • No-one had done a mainstream business film in years partly because of ROLLOVER (1981) and also because the genre is not deemed sexy enough
  • Richard Gere turned down the role of Gecko and later regretted it – possibly why he played a similar character in PRETTY WOMAN (1990)
  • Jeff Beck (not the guitarist) was the adviser on the Gecko character but Stone and Douglas later found out he had lied about being in Vietnam.
  • Confidence is the key to Gecko’s appeal and the fact that he knows how to aggressively play the system.
  • Ellen Mirojnick did the costumes, which are actually a key part of the film.
  • Douglas was not ‘on text’ for the first few days of filming, meaning that Oliver Stone had to pull him aside and get him to stick to the script.
  • His final performance is really precise and on point – clearly the pep talk from Stone worked (like Gecko’s to Bud!)
  • Lighting change at the end of the squash club sequence goes to dark (shadows form around Gecko’s head), possibly reflect Bud’s crossing over to the dark side.
  • British business tycoon played by Terence Stamp is apparently based on Sir James Goldsmith
  • Gecko’s line about British arrogance might have been influenced by certain people he had worked with
  • Music is interesting: Sinatra, Eno/Byrne and score by Stuart Copeland.
  • Bud becomes Gecko’s corporate spy because of the allure of the closed world of Wall Street.
  • Stone filmed actual sessions on the trading floor.
  • The Anacott Steel deal is loosely based the dispute between Jimmy Goldsmith and Carl Ichann over TWA
  • Stone cameo in the square block 60s montage
  • Sean Young pissed off Stone by saying she was Dariane in front of Daryl Hannah (who eventually won the role). Ironically Hannah ended up not liking the role.
  • Julian Schnabel provided most of the paintings in Gecko’s house.
  • Ernest Lehmann’s punchy dialogue for THE SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS (1957) was an influence on Stone and Stanley Weiser’s screenplay
  • Stone cast Terence Stamp after seeing him in THE HIT (1984)
  • Robert Richardson’s visuals are interesting – lots of real locations mixed with beautiful shots of the Manhattan skyline
  • Yuppie lifestyle now looks tame and understated compared to the boom of the 2000s
  • Hard to state how influential this film was on the real Wall Street: dialogue, red braces and juicy dialogue all were a big inspiration on a generation of traders.
  • Gecko’s famous speech works because it contains elements of truth about corporate bureaucracy.
  • Stone intended it for to be ambivalent – equating evolution with greed.
  • The phrase “greed is good” has become synonymous with that era of late 80s greed – one of the most resonant lines in film history.
  • People even write about Gecko as though he’s a real person.
  • Ivan Boesky once said “greed is right” and Stone modified it to “greed is good”Boesky once said “greed is right” and Stone modified it to “greed is good”
  • A paper company is a brilliant metaphor for stodgy, indulgent business as practiced by old, complacent men.
  • Scene on Gecko’s jet very well lit – notice how the light moves up and down Charlie Sheen’s face (apparently Robert Richardson’s first plane sequence).
  • Douglas is brilliant in the dinner party sequence – he really sells the deal with the unions and the look of pride on his face is noticeable
  • The argument between the Sheens has added juice because the actors are actually father and son.
  • Nice swinging camera movements in the elevator scene and in Spader’s law firm
  • Jeff Beck of Drexel Burnham plays someone in the scene where Bud finds out Gecko has betrayed him – he was a leading light of Wall Street who knew Douglas socially and was an influence on the Gecko character
  • Stone claims that Kirk Kerkorian asset stripped MGM in the same way Gecko strips Bluestar Airlines
  • David Byrne’s wife plays the woman who tells Bud his father has had a heart attack
  • Moving scene between the Sheens provides the emotional motivation for Bud’s rescue plan.
  • Gecko’s meltdown after Bud tells him not to “get emotional about stock” is shot intriguingly wide and then Richardson goes for the same lighting trick that he did in the squash club scene (i.e. Gecko’s head fades to black)
  • Unusually long tracking shot as Bud is led out by Stock Watch
  • Confrontation scene in Central Park was shot in the July, 1987 on a wet summer day.
  • Final music cue is great as the camera pulls back on the Manhattan skyline – this scene was shot on July 3rd 1987.
  • Stone feels that BROADCAST NEWS (1987) was favoured by Barry Diller (who ran Fox then).
  • Scott Rudin – then a Fox executive – had left before the theatrical release and Stone felt they had lost an ally of the movie.
  • Stone felt that they shouldn’t have opened wide immediately on 2,000 screens and instead gone for a buzz-building platform release, like they did with BROADCAST NEWS which earned several Oscar nominations
  • Although WALL STREET was only nominated for one Oscar (Best Actor) it ended up winning – one more than BROADCAST NEWS – that year was dominated by THE LAST EMPEROR (1987).
  • It ended up making about the same money as BROADCAST NEWS but has had a much longer legacy, even though.

Categories
Film Notes

Film Notes #4: The Offence (1972)

Sidney Lumet’s’ dark 1972 feature about a police interrogation forms the fourth instalment of my 30-day film program.

For newcomers, the deal is that I must watch a film every day and make notes about it, with the following rules:

  • It must be a film I’ve already seen.
  • I must make notes whilst I’m watching it.
  • Pauses are allowed but the viewing must all be one session.
  • It can’t be a cinema release.

The point is to capture my instant thoughts about a movie and my overall film diet for 30 days, as well as post interesting links to the film in question.

Here are my notes on The Offence (1972) which I watched on a DVD on Saturday 18th March.

  • Connery was allowed make this film as part of the MGM deal for DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER (1972)
  • Lumet keeps the visuals impressively dark – no obvious day-for-night stuff
  • Great visual motif of the circles of light at the beginning, only becomes clear once you’ve seen the film.
  • Drabness of suburban England is expertly evoked but it is never made clear where the action takes place.
  • The town remains nameless although exteriors were shot in Bracknell and interiors were filmed in Twickenham Studios.
  • Connery is very good indeed – it was a brave film for him to star in at this point in his career.
  • Scene at school near the beginning was shot at Wildridings, Bracknell.
  • Brilliantly effective visuals as the girl goes under the bridge.
  • Connery’s flat is at Point Royal, which is the same place that Jenny Agutter’s character lives in I START COUNTING (1969).
  • Audience are forced to work to see the details in certain scenes.
  • Trevor Howard is also a powerful presence as a senior police officer brought into to investigate Connery.
  • Ian Bannen is brilliant in what must have been a very difficult role to play.
  • Vivienne Merchant also gives a heartbreaking performance as Connery’s long suffering wife.
  • There is dialogue and physical action which even modern writers and directors would shy away from.
  • It is a rare film that deals with the emotional cost of policing, which is still a taboo subject in a world obsessed with the police procedural.
  • Clever flashback structure keeps us guessing but the reveal is disturbing because it doesn’t offer a conventional twist.