It's hard to express how great the last few days of movie watching have been for me. In preparation for the coming RopeofSilicon Movie Club I watched Peter Weir's Picnic at Hanging Rock and Ang Lee's The Ice Storm. I hadn't seen either film and that was the main reason I chose them for the Club, and both should certainly offer more than enough spirited conversation.
That said, if you aren't familiar with what I'm talking about when I say "RopeofSilicon Movie Club," click here for more information as I will have a fully functional homepage for the club soon enough. Picnic and Ice Storm are the first two titles we'll be discussing, beginning October 15.
Then I watched Michael Cimino's Heaven's Gate. A film credited with marking the end of the New Hollywood generation of the '70s, ruining United Artists and ending Cimino's career. A restored version of the film will hit DVD and Blu-ray on November 19 and recently played at the Venice Film Festival and will play the New York Film Festival on October 5. I had never seen it, but with its coming release it seems I've read about it everywhere.
Bloggers are talking about it, Criterion restored and is releasing it, it was recently written about in the New York Times and it was the major focal point of Peter Biskind's Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, which I recently finished reading. It was also mentioned in Michael Deeley's Blade Runners, Deer Hunters, and Blowing the Bloody Doors Off, which I also just finished reading. Deeley produced and spearheaded The Deer Hunter and is not much of a fan of Cimino or his ego, which is expressed in the first chapter of what is a fascinating book. Both of those I highly recommend in fact.
Now, I want to read Steven Bach's "Final Cut: Dreams and Disaster in the Making of Heaven's Gate" (hoping I can find it at the used book store down the street), which recounts the making of the film by one of the VP's at United Artists during the making of Heaven's Gate. Yet, I think I gained more than enough perspective watching the 2004 documentary Final Cut: The Making and Unmaking of Heaven's Gate on YouTube (part one here) in which Bach is interviewed along with several involved with the film including Bach's partner David Field, actors Kris Kristofferson, Brad Dourif and Jeff Bridges and cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond. The doc is narrated by Willem Dafoe, whom I later learned was an extra in the film.
Then I read this piece at Vanity Fair, Vincent Canby's infamous "New York Times" review, which buried the film before the rest of the country got to see the 216-minute original cut, and Roger Ebert's review, which was also none-too-kind. As for my thoughts on the film... More on that soon enough...
In terms of reading, next on my list having to do with Heaven's Gate, is this massive essay that caught my eye. Well, that and I am reading Biskind's Down and Dirty Pictures: Miramax, Sundance, and the Rise of Independent Film.
Biskind and Deeley's books captured my attention in their look at the '70s and Heaven's Gate has pushed me over the edge. Many are declaring the death of cinema, but if you look closely we may be on the cusp of another great movement. I haven't got all my ducks in a row just yet as I have more to explore, but I will say one thing, Megan Ellison at Annapurna Pictures may be the first ripple in a pond of change that will hopefully turn into a tidal wave in the coming years.
With that said, what did you watch this week. What captured your attention and have you been preparing for the Movie Club?
SIDE NOTE: You can catch Heaven's Gate on NetFlix Instant Play, all 219 minutes of it as I did. Also, I joined Hulu Plus to watch Picnic at Hanging Rock and, if I understand it correctly, if you join Hulu Plus using this link you'll get two free weeks instead of one. I've only watched one movie so far, but the large amount of Criterion titles is appealing.