By • May 1st, 2001 •

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What was your favorite sequence at the Academy Awards? Mine was Bob Dylan, hands down. Not only was it a gas watching him making weird faces as he tried to comprehend the video setup from Australia to LA, but apparently since the last time I’d seen him he must have stepped into David Cronenberg’s atom-disassembler and come out equal parts J. Carrol Naish, Vincent Price and Salvador Dali. My screenwriting partner, Rocco, and I were at an Academy Awards party, and Roc kept shouting “It’s Dr. Phibes!”

Then they put Dylan up on the screen next to four other squares containing the competing best song performers, where he continued staring at the monitor in confusion. His reaction when he realized he’d won was practically as hard to define as the final shot of City Lights – I’ve heard half a dozen people come up with entirely different descriptions. He managed a rather articulate speech, but went through it as if he were speed reciting, and then wished everyone tranquility, and it was the high point of the evening. If you wish to see the music video of his award-winning song, directed by Curtis Hanson, it’s on the Wonder Boys DVD (from Paramount Home Video) and is reason enough to purchase the disc. The video is beautifully lit and Dylan is fabulously directed, in his usual chameleon fashion, coming off first as Candace Hilligoss in her car in Carnival of Souls, and later, in the nightclub sequence, as Stan Laurel. It’s extremely funny and a rare glimpse of the singer doing something visually substantial. (Long time since Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid…) Hanson, in his preamble on using Dylan’s music in the film, comes off weirdly robotic, but with useful insights.

I missed the pre-awards show where Jennifer Lopez showed off her transparent gown and forced the Academy cinematographers to shoot around her. Just like Elvis on the Ed Sullivan show, which I did catch (so Bob, perhaps ‘things have not changed…’). For those of you who love the Oscar fashions, or who just want a lush history of the event from inception on, Abbeville Press has reissued their classy coffee table book “60 Years of The Oscar”, except that now it’s “70 Years of the Oscar”, taking the mega-event up through 1997. And you can find their site at abbeville.com and check out the Oscar fashion show.

Last week I left my apartment on the Upper West Side for my morning sabbatical, and low and behold Alec Baldwyn was directing the remake of The Devil and Daniel Webster on the corner, in the Hi Life restaurant. Film trucks were parked everywhere, busy PA’s were keeping the production under control. I watched for a while, remembering William Dieterle’s haunting fantasy from 1941, a gorgeous RKO film which was overshadowed that year by Citizen Kane from the same studio.

Simone Simon with Roy Frumkes, Paris

Later I called Simone Simon, who turned 90 this April 23rd in Paris, and told her they were redoing one of her best films, in which she played the Devil’s mistress. “I wasn’t the devil’s mistress!” she interjected. “You were…the devil’s messenger?” “I was the devil’s messenger. And I’m glad they’re remaking it. It wasn’t very good, really. Too heavy-handed. The ending was too long and didn’t work, and the actor playing the farmer, the one I seduce…he had never acted before. He was a football player.”

I was not about to argue with Simone; she would have torn me to shreds (a la Cat People), but I thought she was being a bit harsh on the film. Who will ever forget her turning to the farmer when he asked her where she was from and answering, eerily, “Over the mountain…” It was such a memorable line reading that it became the name of a rock and roll song 20 years later. Notwithstanding my love of the film, and of Simone, I am looking forward to the remake.

Our biggest film-related obituary note of late was Henry Lee Lucas in March, the serial killer dealt with brilliantly by John McNaughton in Henry, which is available on DVD from MPI Home Video in a ‘Director’s Cut’. Henry is one of the great horror films of the last century (anyone disagree?), though not for all tastes.

The most impressive movie theater experience I’ve had in the past few months was the invitational Premiere of Akira. Digital Projection is here to stay. Yosuke “James” Kobayashi, the President of Pioneer, was on hand to introduce the feature, which looked stupendous, digitally projected onto an enormous screen at the newly constructed AMC Empire 25 on 42nd Street &Times Square. The sound was actually crisper than film sound (it had been supervised by the THX organization), and the new subtitling made the story clearer, which was the major problem with the film’s earlier release. It was an important event, and it’s going to be a major theatrical success, I suspect.

More later…

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