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“special features,” casts and crews, films.

June 10, 2011

I’ve written a beyond ridiculous amount of entries on really deep things. Religion, spirituality (which is not necessarily the same thing), the philosophies that go with these topics…

But lately.. past month or so (?) I’ve been happy to write about music, movies, and random stuff. Even the minutia of life.. things that might seem trivial, that most folks might consider to be of little importance.

Such is the case this time.

I finished watching “Pulp “Fiction,” (for the 7th time) was it last night or the night before? Oh yes, the night before. Last night, I watched “Hamlet 2,” an insane and fairly humorous comedy featuring Steve Coogan. Coogan was in an even crazier comedy called “Tropic Thunder.”

But Coogan’s films are not what I want to write about right now. Sorry Steve, I’m a fan, but..perhaps some other time..

It was the night before last I finished watching “Pulp Fiction,” which I checked out at the library.

A little bit of info about getting DVD’s at libraries.. First of all, your library, if it is a decent sized branch, or a little branch that is part of a good size library system, is likely to have a copy of “Pulp Fiction,” because the film is a modern classic.

There is a rather good selection of videos at every branch of the library system in the city where I live. LOTS of movies to choose from. I never go home without checking out several.

Like most libraries, these feature selections from “The Criterion Collection.”

From Wikipedia: (can’t cut and paste material from Wikipedia, so this will take a moment to type out). I will only type a little bit of the Wikipedia info, and supplement it with some of my own.

“The Criterion Collection is a video-distribution company selling ‘important and classic and contemporary films to cinema aficianados.'”
These films were the first to have audio commentary, and standardized the letter box format and special features. This company has also worked very hard to restore and clean all films (clean the actual film.. what was shot using cameras) released on their label.

There were a great many Criterion Collection films at the library I frequented in CA, and lots of them here in Idaho.

So yeah.. special features and audio commentaries pretty much originated with this distribution company.

I don’t know if there is Criterion version of “Pulp Fiction.” There should be. Most films in the collection are foreign or old or obscure art-film titles, but there are some more modern ones as well. Several of the films by my favorite director, Wes Anderson, have made it into the collection.

What surprised me was finding a Criterion version of “The Rock!” The action film starring Nick Cage, Sean Connery, and Ed Harris. Why that one? There’s tons of action movies out there.. go figure.

I believe there should be a Criterion version of “Pulp Fiction.” Perhaps the reason there is not (unless there is?”) is that the collector’s edition I got from the library already has many (perhaps too many) special features.

The reason I put the words “special features” in quotes in the title of this entry is because some features are not very special.. at all.

I love watching the makings of films, but much of the so-called special features turn out to be a lot of stroking of the director, how awesome he or she is.. and then the ass-kissing contest begins. All the actors just love the director, and all the members of the cast justlove each other.. and we get twenty minutes to over an hour of this. It’s a lot of bullshit! There’s tons of tension on the sets of movies.

It’s true that some directors, such as Clint Eastwood, are rather easy to get along with, or so I have heard. It is also true that some actors and actresses get along well with each other. For example, Jude Law and one of my favorite actresses, Rachel Weisz found it easy to work together on the fantastic WWII film “Enemy at the Gates,” because they were already friends from the same British acting schools or something like that.

Another example – an amazingly funny comedy from the ’80’s called “Spies Like Us,” starring Dan Akroyd and Chevy Chase. These guys were both alumni of Saturday Night Live.. so they had rapport already, and likely found it easy to work together. If you haven’t seen “Spies Like Us,” you gotta!!

One last example of actors probably getting along well with each other are the Wes Anderson films. Bill Murray was in 5 of them. Owen Wilson, who co-wrote almost all the films with Wes Anderson.. Owen was in.. three, his brother Luke was in three, Angelica Huston was in 3, Jason Schwartzman was in 3..

And, the crew often accompany the directors on various films. It really helps for the crew to have worked together before.

But, for many, if not most movies, the actors and actresses, crew, etc. have not worked together before.. and there is tension. Everybody freaks out some of the time.

So when these people start saying how wonderful their director and co-stars are.. I get bothered and turn that junk off.

The first time I watched special features like this one.. everyone speaking quite fondly of each other, was for “The Fellowship of the Ring, Extended Edition.”

I did not know at the time that this was or would be done in most “special features” sections.

To me, it all seemed genuine, but my mom said.. this is how it is.. they have a tradition of talking about each other in favorable terms.. not just the cast and crew of LOTR, but everybody.

I do take issue with her somewhat. I do believe that people working on the LOTR films didget to know each other well.. did become friends and like each other.

Why do I believe this? All the films were shot at once in New Zealand. And the shooting of all these films took at least 3 times longer than most movies. This gave everyone much more time to bond.

Another factor that brought the members of cast and crew closer together was harsh conditions. The movie was often shot outdoors, sometimes on quite rough terrain and in really bad weather. People, who already get along fairly well, tend to bond under these circumstances.

This bonding through adversity takes place not only in the filming of some movies, but in the Japanese school system as well. Japanese schools were (and maybe still are) purposely somewhat rundown.. inadequate heat or air conditioning, beat-up desks, not the friendliest of teachers.. this caused the students to bond, because they were all facing the same difficulties.

Does this bonding through adversity always work? My guess would be no. The opposite can occur.. in difficult circumstances, sometimes there is increased tension.. people go crazy and can’t or won’t work together at all. This happens especially when certain actors or directors have really big egos.. bigger than most. The actor Christian Bale, is famous for having a meltdown on the set of one of his movies. And he was probably indoors in a climate-controlled soundstage, not perched on the edge of a snowy mountain somewhere in New Zealand.

I am guessing Christian Bale is not one of the folks who bonds easily with other people, but he has worked the director Christopher Nolan on several films, including “The Prestige” (about stage magicians in early 20th century England – good flick) “Batman Begins,” “The Dark Knight,” and “The Dark Knight Rises,” which is in production right now.

So, I suppose, when Bale and Nolan complement each other in the special features section, some of their comments are likely to be genuine.

In general though, people heaping a ghastly amount of praise on each other.. not to be believed, and certainly not worth watching. That stuff is easy and cheap to film, and on the DVD box, the words “special features” is displayed. People think,”oh goodie! special features!” and a lot of what they get is just this b.s. which is not special at all.

I haven’t gotten through all the special features on the “Pulp Fiction” Collectors Edition. The first part was interesting for awhile.. covering the beginning of Quentin Tarantino’s career, going into some discussion about his earlier film “Reservoir Dogs” (I still have no damned idea why a film about violent dudes trying to commit a crime that goes wrong is called “Reservoir Dogs.” I don’t recall seeing any reservoirs or dogs in that film, which leaves me thinking… WTF??)

But then.. keep watching this special features segment, the one on “Pulp Fiction,” and eventually it’s the usual ring around the rosy ass-kissing. I turned that part off.

Next up.. Tarantino interviewed by Charlie Rose. Charlie Rose has a program that starts at midnight in most timezones in the US. When I watch TV late at night, I don’t bother with Conan or Jay or whoever, I watch Charlie Rose. Mr. Rose has been interviewing people for many years.Sometimes he has leaders of various countries.. heads of state, ambassadors, sometimes it’s writers, actors, directors.

Rose has such a variety of guests that on one night he’ll have the head of the Irish political party Sinn Fein (pronounced shin fane).. a group with close ties to the Irish Republican Army (a terrorist organization), and the next night Mr. Rose will have as his guest the rapper and mogul Jay-Z. You never know who’s going to pop up on the Charlie Rose show.

You will find Charlie Rose interviews of directors or actors for various films in special features sections. This doesn’t happen often, but once in awhile there will be a Rose interview.. and that is usually rather interesting. I am hoping Rose’s interview of Tarantino will be worth watching.

After the Rose interview, there is a Siskel and Ebert (two of the most famous and influential film critics – Roger Ebert is still alive, but Gene Siskel died in 1999) “At the Movies” special segment, and a bunch of other stuff, like the trailers.. also called previews.. why are they called trailers? A trailer is something that follows after something else, not preceding something!

Geez, sometimes I aim for short blogs.. but enjoy the topics I’m writing about, and usually head into other topics.. that are (usually) related, throw in lots of material in parenthesis, use lots of ellipses (…) dot dot dot.. that’s an ellipse.. and have at least somewhat of a good time. I hope people reading what I write will have a good time as well.

There is FAR more I’d like to write about movies, but this will do for now.

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