Tag Archives: Bob Clark

Rhinestone (1984, Bob Clark)

With the exception of Dolly Parton, everyone involved with Rhinestone seems nervous. Well, maybe not Richard Farnsworth. He seems impatient, like he can’t wait for his scene to be over. Top-billed Sylvester Stallone spends the first half of the film trying too hard, seems to relax, then finishes the film not trying hard enough. It’s like Stallone resents the stupid stuff he’s got to do but then he’s no good at the serious stuff either. Sure, he’s got terrible dialogue, which he wrote for himself (along with whatever remains of Phil Alden Robinson’s original script), but he’s still not acting well. He’s acting poorly.

When does he act well? During the ten or fifteen minutes when he’s a greased up romantic lead in some weirdly racy, somewhat wholesome perfume commercial with Parton. The film looks different too, like director Clark and cinematographer Timothy Galfas were just pretending to be wholly incompetent and they were really just pacing out this eventual payoff. Sadly, editors Stan Cole and John W. Wheeler don’t improve during this section of the film. They’re bad throughout.

While Parton isn’t good–it’s not possible to be good in Rhinestone–she’s earnest and she’s capable. She takes her job seriously, which is probably why her original songs for the film are good. Rhinestone should, frighteningly, be better. Even with Stallone, it should be better. The movie isn’t Rocky with country music, it’s Stallone doing a “Barbarino” impression with country music. If it were Rocky with country music, it’d be a lot better.

The problem is the tone. Clark wants to take it seriously. He wants to take Stallone as a country western star who dresses in an incredibly lame silver sequined cowboy outfit. Sylvester Stallone as a successful country western star is not possible. It’s just not. More idiotically, the film itself doesn’t take that idea seriously.

There’s one music number I resent myself for liking and Tim Thomerson’s amusing, though not good (he’s nervous but trying to get past it). Parton’s got a lot of presence and she and Stallone actually have what appears to be chemistry, if a lot more platonic than the narrative requires, but it’s not like she makes it worthwhile. She just doesn’t embarrass herself. Everyone else embarrasses themselves at some point or another.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Bob Clark; screenplay by Phil Alden Robinson and Sylvester Stallone, based on a story by Robinson; director of photography, Timothy Galfas; edited by Stan Cole and John W. Wheeler; music by Dolly Parton and Mike Post; production designer, Robert F. Boyle; produced by Howard Smith and Marvin Worth; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Dolly Parton (Jake), Sylvester Stallone (Nick), Tim Thomerson (Barnett Kale), Richard Farnsworth (Mr. Farris), Steve Peck (Mr. Martinelli), Penny Santon (Mrs. Martinelli) and Ron Leibman (Freddie Ugo).


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Black Christmas (1974, Bob Clark)

Black Christmas has a lot of significant problems, but the film’s strengths make up for (or just distract from) a lot of them. But then there’s director Clark. He can’t make the film scary. He can make it disturbing–and often does, even when it’s not successful otherwise–but he never makes it scary. And when Olivia Hussey is running away from the psycho killer, it has to be scary. It’s the first scene with real action in the film and Clark doesn’t do it. In the process, he loses any of the disturbing too.

Even though the final act is a flop, the film does still look good. It’s not exquisitely directed anymore–Clark does a beautiful job introducing the film and its characters in the first act–but it’s always well-produced. Reginald H. Morris’s photography is always competent, even when he’s not doing anything special. His use of focus is particularly gorgeous and it really brings personality to the film in the first third.

Clark just can’t direct the scary part. And he never does, because neither he nor writer Roy Moore, have anything interesting in mind for Hussey. She’s initially just one part of an ensemble, but once she becomes the lead, there needs to be something to the character and there isn’t. Hussey’s not good, but she’s not bad and she does have a few strong moments. She just doesn’t have anything to work with. Her character has the film’s least thoughtful story arc–she’s pregnant with creepy boyfriend Keir Dullea’s baby and she doesn’t want to keep it. Why doesn’t she want to keep it? She doesn’t love him. And her “ambitions.” What ambitions? No idea, Clark and Morse don’t care. They care enough to immediately establish Margot Kidder’s backstory because Kidder does wonders with it. It’s like Clark doesn’t want to ask too much of Hussey.

If it’d been any of the other stalked sorority girls–Black Christmas has the psycho killer terrorizing a sorority just before Christmas because narratively pointless gimmick–the film would’ve been better. Hussey plays the script. She doesn’t bring any personality of her own. Everyone else acts. Hussey recites. And Clark’s mostly responsible. He shoots Hussey differently than the other actors. Lots of close-ups, lots of boring close-ups. Almost every other shot is interesting (until the action), but never the ones of Hussey. It’s frustrating.

Like I said, great supporting performance from Kidder. She’s hilarious, charming, sympathetic, profane, gentle. John Saxon is fine as the cop. Marian Waldman’s awesome as the drunk den mother. She has the same kind of sipping sherry stashed all over the house–it’s a fantastic subplot and far more imaginative than the psycho killer one. Andrea Martin is good as another sister. James Edmond is fantastic as one of the girl’s fathers. When Edmond’s still part of Christmas, it’s a special film in how it deals with grief and fear amid cheap horror gags. Art Hindle’s good too. Doug McGrath’s funny as a dumb police sergeant. There’s so much texture to the supporting cast, it just makes Hussey and Dullea stand out even more. I neglected to mention Dullea’s awful. There could be a drinking game for his lousy performance in this film. Anyone would’ve been better.

Or, even better, the character wouldn’t exist because there’s no place for him in the film. Clark and Moore’s problem is how they anticipate the narrative. The characters have nothing going on except what they’re doing at a moment–Black Christmas takes place over thirty hours or so–even when they’re in the middle of another subplot. The setup for the psycho killer is infinitely better than the psycho killer because there’s nothing to do with the psycho killer. Clark and Moore completely cop out.

Okay music from Carl Zittrer. Okay editing from Stan Cole. Sometimes excellent direction from Clark, sometimes not. Truly great performance from Margot Kidder. Black Christmas has a lot going for it, it just doesn’t really get anywhere.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Produced and directed by Bob Clark; written by Roy Moore; director of photography, Reginald H. Morris; edited by Stan Cole; music by Carl Zittrer; released by Ambassador Film Distributors.

Starring Olivia Hussey (Jess), Keir Dullea (Peter), Margot Kidder (Barb), John Saxon (Lt. Fuller), Marian Waldman (Mrs. Mac), Andrea Martin (Phyl), James Edmond (Mr. Harrison), Doug McGrath (Nash), Art Hindle (Chris) and Lynne Griffin (Clare).


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THIS POST IS PART OF THE O CANADA BLOGATHON HOSTED BY RUTH OF SILVER SCREENINGS AND KRISTINA OF SPEAKEASY.


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A Christmas Story (1983, Bob Clark)

I don’t get A Christmas Story‘s continued success. I mean, I get its initial success (I grew up with it, on video, and remember my friends talking about it before I got to see it and the film living up to expectations), but it’s hard to believe people still like it. I mean, what do they like about it? What does someone who thinks Wild Hogs is comedic genius get out of this film?

Anyway, this viewing–it’s been a while since I’ve seen it and I think I always forget how the opening titles play–I realized just what a precious object Clark is making here. Since the last time I watched it, I’ve listened to some Jean Shepherd radio programs and A Christmas Story is remarkably tame (I also notice Peter Billingsley is played as a bit of a doofus for a protagonist, until the end when it’s clear Melinda Dillon and Darren McGavin are the real leads).

There are some issues with Clark’s object here–well, some issues with how Reginald H. Morris photographs it. There are about six shots where the lighting is just off, like the film got developed wrong. It hurts the flow. Luckily the excellent soundtrack and Clark’s directorial abilities (has anyone ever commented on how the Chinese restaurant sequence is one magnificent shot–someone should have), make up for any bumps.

It’s amazing how little Christmas itself has to do with the film itself. It could have been called practically anything else.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Bob Clark; screenplay by Jean Shepherd, Leigh Brown and Clark, based on a novel by Shepherd; director of photography, Reginald H. Morris; edited by Stan Cole; music by Paul Zaza and Carl Zittrer; production designer, Reuben Freed; produced by Clark and René Dupont; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Melinda Dillon (Mrs. Parker), Darren McGavin (The Old Man), Peter Billingsley (Ralphie Parker), Ian Petrella (Randy Parker), Scott Schwartz (Flick), R.D. Robb (Schwartz), Tedde Moore (Miss Shields), Yano Anaya (Grover Dill), Zack Ward (Scut Farkus) and Jeff Gillen (Santa Claus).


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