William Friedkin

To Live and Die in LA

Los Angeles is a city whose most privileged corners seem to prize youth at any cost against a backdrop of twelve-month sunshine. It is a city in which time moves differently than it does anywhere else, where the passing of seasons simply does not occur in as pronounced a fashion, and traffic replaces weather as the subject of universal conversation. It should come as no surprise, then, that Los Angeles has never been an iconic city for representing the holiday season. Where New York, Chicago, the suburban Midwest, and even Budapest have provided the settings for numerous entries in Hollywood’s holiday film canon, Los Angeles has rarely been used or imagined as a location that produces a distinct image of the holidays, despite the fact that it has provided soundstages for numerous movies revisited this time of year. This fact stands out in William Friedkin’s To Live and Die in LA, the director’s 1985 return to the type of fast-paced, gritty, realist police narrative that he made his name on a decade prior with The French Connection. To Live and Die in LA is known for many things – the launch of Willem Dafoe’s career, a wall-to-wall Wang Chung soundtrack, a crazy good high speed chase scene – but it isn’t known well enough as an odd yet fitting holiday movie for Los Angeles, and perhaps the subtlest Christmas movie ever made.

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Colin Farrell in Miami Vice

Would the word “Carcosa” sound cooler when spoken in an Irish brogue? I guess it doesn’t really matter. Because while Colin Farrell might be in talks for True Detective, the second season has been confirmed for a California setting. So unless creator Nic Pizzolatto was writing the series with an Irishman in mind, chances are Farrell will have to put on his best American accent for this one. Also, that whole Carcosa thing is over and done with, so there’s really no earthly reason for Farrell to be putting those syllables in that order. But yes, the announement is official. Colin Farrell. True Detective. In talks. In a story broken by Deadline, we have the first big piece of news for the HBO series’ second season (Sorry William Friedkin, but unless you’re willing to make your directing gig on the season official, Farrell wins the “first big news” statuette). And like anything and everything relating to True Detective, this news is shrouded in a veil of secrecy so thick you’d need a machete to hack through it.

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The Exorcist

William Friedkin began his directing career on television, where he helmed numerous documentaries and even an episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour in which, during filming, young Friedkin was reportedly chastised by the Master of Suspense for not wearing a tie. Friedkin is the blue-collar outsider of New Hollywood, the genuine article in an era during which everyone fashioned himself an outsider. The son of lower-middle class Ukranian immigrants, Friedkin worked his way from the mailroom of a local TV station to eventually directing some of the most beloved films of the 1970s like The French Connection and The Exorcist. In his approach to filmmaking and his biography, Friedkin has more in common with Lumet and Ford than his film-school-rank contemporaries Coppola and Scorsese. Yet there is still no director quite like Friedkin, who during the 1970s helmed the first major film with an all-gay cast, won an Oscar for a film that defined the heart-stopping car chase, made the biggest horror blockbuster of all time, and sent Roy Scheider to drive a truck 200 miles through the Dominican Republic. With renewed attention and appreciation given to past flops Cruising and Sorcerer (the director’s favorite of his films), William Friedkin’s career now looks to be one of the richest and most diverse among his generation of filmmakers. So here’s some free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) by the guy from the “film school generation” who never went to film school.

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MGM

William Friedkin‘s 1977 classic Sorcerer finally hit Blu-ray last week, and it marked my first viewing of the film. Before you give me grief, know that I had seen and loved The Wages of Fear, and I was just holding out on watching the remake until it came in a Friedkin-approved version. It should surprise no one that I found Sorcerer to be as fantastic as the original, but my favorite Friedkin film remains unchanged. Not only did To Live and Die in L.A. introduce the world in 1985 to the bow-legged joy that is William Petersen, but it’s also a remarkably successful mix of dark sensibilities, characters with depth and honest excitement. It’s an intelligent thriller that makes no guarantees as to the morality or life expectancy of its characters, and its pacing and energy help make it eminently re-watchable. The DVD includes a handful of extra features (never ported over to the Blu-ray for some reason) including an alternate ending, a deleted scene, a making-of featurette and a commentary track from the director. He has an interesting approach to recording one, but he’s a fascinating speaker all the same. Keep reading to see what I heard on the commentary track for William Friedkin’s To Live and Die in L.A.

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The Amazing Spider-Man

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. This special edition features, naturally, a lot of Star Wars: Episode VII reactions tucked prominently into other non-Star Wars editorials. There will be a quiz later. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Argo

What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly movie news column that brings you only the most excellent links, news items, art and moving images from around the web. It’s also glad to be back in the saddle now that guest author week is over. First up tonight, a big round of applause for Ryan Gallagher of The Criterion Cast for stepping in last week and filling in while I gorged myself on the bloody mess known as Fantastic Fest. It made the festival experience that much more enjoyable to know that fans of this column were being treated to some excellent writing. Maybe we’ll convince him to come back again in the future. We begin our news night with one of over 30 new images from Argo, the Ben Affleck directed drama that’s getting all sorts of buzz. Even our own Rob Hunter is said to have liked it a lot…

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Nic Cage Drive Angry

According to Deadline Hollywood, Nic Cage has signed on for I Am Wrath, the story of a man who gets so frustrated by the inept and corrupt police force investigating his wife’s murder that he goes vigilante. Just like in Death Wish. Or Vigilante. So it’s not exactly a new idea on the surface, but the prospect of Cage aggressively acting a role like this is loaded with potential, especially if William Friedkin, who is apparently circling the project, decides to land. It would make a great crime partnership. The question is how much Friedkin would reel Cage in. Hopefully just enough to make things intense without going full Snake Eyes.

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With Jeremy out of commission this week (possibly a victim of an diabolical ancient demon, or perhaps on vacation), I’m jumping in to highlight the commentary track on one of my favorite films. For the most part nowadays, Hollywood stays out of religion. That is, of course, until it’s time to do a movie about demonic possession, and then the otherwise secular industry suddenly finds Jesus and starts spouting dogma like red-state Tea Party patriot at Chick-Fil-A. The gold standard of demonic possession movies is William Friedkin’s chilling masterpiece The Exorcist, which remains one of the scariest movies of all time. All demonic possession movies from 1973 on borrow (or outright steal) from it in some way. This weekend, moviegoers will face demons once again in the cinemas, though The Possession taps into an older religion with a Dybbuk box from the Jewish faith. Still, odds are there are at least a few elements that owe a debt to the Catholic overtones in The Exorcist.

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French Connection Commentary

William Friedkin hasn’t always made odd films about strange characters who end up doing horrible things. He used to direct movies about little girls getting taken over by the Devil and edgy cops who crack down on drug rings. That latter part, The French Connection, is what we’re looking at this week, as it’s time to go back and listen to what the Killer Joe director had to say over one of his greatest films, a true classic with one of the greatest actors ever giving what is arguably – not very arguably, though – his finest performance. But we’re more interested in what the director of that film has to say about that actor, that greatest performance, and that damn car chase. Friedkin is known for giving great commentary, able to hold his own on a track with ample amounts of information, personal insight, and views on the art of filmmaking and the business of movies as a whole. Needless to say, we’re expecting a lot here, and Friedkin rarely ever disappoints. So strap in and check out all the wonderful things we learned listening to this commentary for The French Connection.

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For such an unrelentingly graphic and blood-spattered NC-17 thriller, William Friedkin‘s Killer Joe is more romantic than one would expect. The filmmaker behind The Exorcist and Sorcerer (a movie he’s currently fighting to get back out to the public) has crafted, as he puts it, a romantic comedy for the new age. That title isn’t a whole lot different than his previous collaboration with playwright/screenwriter Tracy Letts, the even more claustrophobic and humanistic Bug. They’re stories of characters wanting more, but mainly love, which Dottie (Juno Temple) finds in the titular psychopathic (Matthew McConaughey). Here’s what director William Friedkin had to say about making Cinderella for the 21st century, the importance of reading between the lines, and how one of cinema’s finest chase scenes was completely unscripted:

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Killer Joe

Exploitation cinema is good for the id. Because the great majority of us are not thieves, murderers, sociopaths, or people with problematic sexual instincts, exploitation cinema provides a safe space and an opportunity to view characters who may be any of the combinations noted above without having to experience the debilitating guilt, life-ending consequences, or moral panic that would incur if we ever engaged in such activities ourselves. In other words, exploitation cinema is a brief respite from a reality mostly determined by standards of law and order, rational behavior, stability, and long-term thinking. Exploitation cinema provides the exhilaration of chaos that is enthralling to witness onscreen, but that one wouldn’t want to encounter in anything resembling reality. While William Friedkin’s Killer Joe is a film that fully earns its NC-17 rating with its portrayals of abject cruelty, predatory sex, and strange and unusual acts of punishment, it’s never a film that asks audiences to take the events onscreen all to seriously as Killer Joe doesn’t even seem to even take itself at face value. The movie’s mood and ending will certainly polarize audiences, but if one is willing to accept and go along with the esoteric tone Friedkin strikes (and there are perfectly legitimate reasons not to do so), then Killer Joe is likely one of the more engaging films of the year if for no other reason than its sheer audacity.

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The Dark Knight Rises

Alright, so June didn’t exactly kick us into high gear the way it should have. We didn’t get another Avengers, a movie everyone lost their nuts over. From the blockbusters to the little guys, there was a lack in unanimous love and praise to be found. We did finally get Prometheus, a movie which could go down as this summer’s main topic of movie conversation over whether “It was awesome! No, it sucked!” but we get those all too often during this time of year. If we’re going to get one movie to feed the millions with true, big summer entertainment where all the harshest critics will be beaten across the world, then we got one ‘lil superhero movie coming up that may provoke such a reaction… The Amazing Spider-Man! Actually, no, but Marc Webb‘s reboot does pass the time nicely and, at the very least, gives us a new Peter Parker we can care about. But that doesn’t mean it made this list. Find out what did:

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Killer Joe

William Friedkin’s (The Exorcist, Bug) latest thriller, Killer Joe, looks gritty, greasy, and gross, the sort of crime movie that makes you feel like you have to take a shower after you watch it. It’s full of bad people making evil decisions; which, according to noir morality, is going to spell certain (and likely bloody) doom for everyone involved. Sometimes watching a movie like that can be a masochistic experience, but when the film in question stars names like Thomas Haden Church, Emile Hirsch, Gina Gershon, an adorable-while-spinning Juno Temple, and a seemingly motivated Matthew McConaughey, more likely than not the experience is going to be fascinating. Killer Joe’s new trailer has violence, matricide, deep shadows, rain storms, Southern accents, dilapidated pool halls, people putting their sister up as collateral, and I think someone gets killed with a can of pumpkin pie filling. It looks moody, and dangerous, and it warns us that the film has an NC-17 rating.

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Demián Bichir is the sort of actor who’s been doing great work for a while now, but who has still failed to achieve mainstream recognition. When he got a high profile role playing Fidel Castro in Steven Soderbergh’s Che, most of the buzz coming out of the picture was surrounding Benicio Del Toro’s work in the title role, or how Oscar Isaac was going to use it as a launching pad on to bigger things. He landed a role as a recurring character on the hit Showtime series Weeds, but all of the talk surrounding that show concerns Mary Louise-Parker’s increasingly frequent nude scenes, and not what a slimy and intimidating villain Bichir makes. He even got rave reviews and an Oscar Nomination for Best Actor for his starring role in A Better Life, but the film went criminally unseen by the public, getting its widest release on only 216 screens. The Oscar nod did seem to give the guy a little bit of juice in Hollywood, however, as he was reportedly close to getting the villain role in Star Trek 2, but had to turn it down due to stage commitments. And now Variety has a report that the actor has not one, but two big projects lined up for the future. Apparently he’s not only negotiating to join Robert Rodriguez’s upcoming sequel Machete Kills, but he’s also set to star as an Israeli operative in The Exorcist director William Friedkin’s next thriller, Trapped.

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Killer Joe

After walking out of Killer Joe, one of my favorite films of SXSW, the NC-17 rating was one of the first things that hit me. It’s easy to see why the MPAA slapped it with that box-office death rating. When William Friedkin‘s film gets nasty, it gets nasty. The film is about the rough and real kind of violence, not the goofy fun type. However, Killer Joe‘s violence and sex is still plenty steps down from a handful of R-rated releases. We’ve seen violence of this magnitude done on-screen before, so it’s most likely a tonal issue the MPAA has with Friedkin’s stage adaptation. LD Entertaiment recently attempted to appeal the NC-17 rating, but it has now been denied. Rumors are that they’ll appeal again soon. David Dinerstein, the president of LD Entertainment, and the film’s screenwriter Tracy Letts both gave statements to the appeals board, and I happened to have interviewed Letts the other day at SXSW.

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Killer Joe is trash. Not bad trash. Not pretentious trash. Just plain old ugly, funny, and sophisticated trash. William Friedkin‘s stage adaptation of Tracy Letts stage play is not as accomplished as their previous collaboration, Bug, but it’s definitely more unhinged and surpasses many of its fellow genre brethren. If you thought Bug was “crazy,” just wait until you get to Killer Joe‘s final minutes of magical brutality. Before we get there, however, what we’re served is a fairly conventional story that only makes that final act all the more satisfying. As with Bug, Killer Joe does not follow the cleanliest of people. Chris Smith (Emile Hirsch), a young and annoying hick, wants to do what all good sons aspire for: kill his mother who sold his drugs. Said mother, a woman Chris and his sister despise, holds a life insurance check that would payoff 50,000 dollars, so the young lead and his family decide to claim it.

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31 Days of Horror - October 2011

We continue our journey through a month of frightening, bloody and violent films. For more, check out our 31 Days of Horror homepage. Synopsis: It’s a love story between a psychologically damaged man and an emotionally damaged woman! Sounds romantic, right? Oddly, it kind of is. As the relationship strengthens between Peter (Michael Shannon) and Agness (Ashley Judd), the further Shannon’s character believes that little bugs are eating away at the two of them. Slowly the duo turn towards great insanity and chipping away at their bodies bit by bit to survive these apparently vicious bugs.

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I wish I got this interview on video. Emile Hirsch was acting like he just came off a late night of drinking countless Red Bulls. The actor couldn’t have been more energetic and enthusiastic about everything he was saying. It threw me at times, for sure, but it was refreshing on some level. Here is a young actor that does not take himself seriously at all and that does not come off pretentious, at least that’s the impression I got. Hirsch was at Comic-Con promoting the under-the-radar alien-invasion film, The Darkest Hour. The film had no Hall H presence, but a press event was held at the pain-in-the-ass Hard Rock Hotel. The concept art I saw presented the film as an atmospheric and small invasion film set in Mother Russia. The aliens decided not to stop by Los Angeles or New York for the thousandth time. Here’s what Emile Hirsch had to say about the scope of the film, how it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and how Speed Racer was ahead of its time:

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When the calendar page turns to October, we Rejects have only one thought: horror. To celebrate this grandest and darkest of months, we’ll cover one excellent horror film a day for the entirety of the month. That’s 31 Days of Horror and 31 Films perfect for viewing on a dark, chilly, October night. If you, like us, love horror and Halloween, give us a Hell Yeah and keep coming every day this month for a new dose of adrenaline. Synopsis: Evil children in horror movies hit a stride in 1973 with William Friedkin’s adaptation of William Peter Blatty’s book. Famous actress Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn) is in the middle of shooting a movie, but her own twelve-year-old daughter Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair) is having problems at home. It starts with weird noises in the attic and an imaginary Ouija board friend she calls Captain Howdy. However, it soon escalates, and after exhausting her medical options, Chris turns to the Catholic church. She convinces a local priest to perform an exorcism on her daughter, revealing the terrifying demon possessing her body.

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published: 12.23.2014
B+
published: 12.22.2014
C-
published: 12.19.2014
A-


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