Wall Street (1987)

Wall Street.jpg

Life all comes down to a few moments. This is one of them.  Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) is an impatient and ambitious young stockbroker doing what he can to make his way to the top. He idolises a ruthless corporate raider Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) and using information from his union leader father (Martin Sheen) about his airline persuades him into mentoring him with insider trading. As Fox becomes embroiled in greed and underhanded schemes including spying on a British CEO Lawrence Wildman (Terence Stamp) and is blindsided by a fake romance with interior decorator Darien (Daryl Hannah) who is actually Gekko’s mistress, his decisions eventually threaten his dad’s livelihood. Faced with this dilemma, Fox questions his loyalties…A veritable barrage of aphorisms pours from the mouth of Michael Douglas in this slick, showy, unsubtle exposition of moneymakers in the wake of a real-life insider trading scandal which gave this movie so much traction back in the day. With their contrasting acting styles, Douglas, Sheen (and Sheen pere) make this forward-moving father-son drama fly as Bud forges his way through life trying to discern false and real gods and placing his faith in the wrong guy long enough to get into real trouble. This journey from naif to adult is a good showcase for Sheen whose preternatural beauty solidifies into knowledge and maturity as the film progresses and it provides a great offset to an amazing Oscar-winning performance since the brutal Douglas as the man who will do anything to make money bestrides the drama. Greed is good. Lunch is for wimps. I look at you, I see myself. You’re not naive enough to think you’re living in a democracy are you? This is the free market! How he makes these Sun Tzu-isms sing! Oliver Stone’s muscular screenplay doesn’t flag and it’s nice to see Sean Young (as Mrs Gekko) reunited with Hannah years after Blade Runner as the latter does a horrifying makeover on Bud’s new apartment. Truly an iconic work.

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Happy 80th Birthday Ridley Scott 11/30/2017!

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Birthday greetings to British director Ridley Scott, who celebrates his 80th year today. Part of the vanguard of stylish ad directors who brought visual innovation and narrative flair to cinema (including Adrian Lyne and Alan Parker) he’s still going from strength to strength, continuing to make award winners and people pleasers. From the terrifying Alien whose world he has revisited with vim, through the feminist road movie Thelma & Louise, to ancient times (Gladiator, Exodus) and relentlessly contemporary genre workouts including regular collaborations with Russell Crowe, his films never fail to excite or delight or stir controversy. His upcoming release even went back for reshoots to replace the controversial Kevin Spacey:  All the Money in the World will no doubt tick all those boxes that Scott has been so keen to fill – narrative twists, spectacular action and colourful design. Long may he reign!

Happy 70th Birthday Richard Dreyfuss 29th October 2017!

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Cinema’s Everyman is now 70 years old. He had a vast acting career in TV as a teenager and young man in everything from Peyton Place to The Big Valley, and even though you can see him in a small and uncredited role in The Graduate and meeting a typically bad end for a JD in The Young Runaways, it was George Lucas’ American Graffiti that brought him to prominence as a mature actor in cinema.  It was swiftly followed by an award-winning performance in The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz in which he thought he had been a disaster (he was wrong).  However when he teamed up with Steven Spielberg in Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind he really announced himself and embedded himself in our collective consciousness. Seen latterly as an alter ego for the filmmaker, he had the capacity to embody ordinariness, discombobulation, dry humour and awe:  not a bad combination and one that made him the most appealing man on the planet. Then came The Goodbye Girl:  universal love and an Academy Award (which he keeps in his refrigerator). Nobody could take Richard III remotely seriously after that outing which was presumed to be a take on Dustin Hoffman’s insufferability when he became famous (Hoffman was turned down for the role!) One of his best parts was in Prisoner of Honor, a TV film about his namesake in the Dreyfus Affair for director Ken Russell. After a decade in which he did a variety of principally comedic roles (and a few years off after which he appeared for a variety of reasons to be mutating into a character actor) he reunited with Spielberg for the magical Always, a remake of A Guy Named Joe, one of those WW2 films the director cherished. With Mr Holland’s Opus he was in a film that seemed aimed at the cheap seats and it worked – he gave an enormously moving performance in a movie designed around the emotional power of music. Latterly he has moved between TV and the big screen and was enormously impressive in the better of the two recent TV movies about Bernie Madoff. Vocal about Jewish issues, civics and mental illness, Dreyfuss is also a writer, stage performer and all round good guy. You’re a mensch – many, many, many happy returns!

Happy 50th Birthday Julia Roberts 28th October 2017!

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America’s Sweetheart celebrates her 50th birthday today. Why is that so hard to believe? Julia Roberts has been in our consciousness since she was barely out of her teens and then became a global superstar as the happiest hooker in Hollywood with Pretty Woman. That core of steel came through in some of her Nineties roles, with her crowning moment in Erin Brockovich which got her the Academy Award for a stunning, complete performance in which she played a single mother who needed to wise up fast and use her smarts to help win a class action in an environmental lawsuit. The vintage Valentino dress she wore to the ceremony is still the highpoint of Oscars fashion in the past two decades. As well as working with auteurs like Woody Allen, Robert Altman, Steven Soderbergh, romcom maker Garry Marshall and actor-turned-director George Clooney, the world’s highest paid actress has been in metatextual and self-referential comedy dramas like Notting Hill, Runaway Bride and America’s Sweethearts. She has challenged herself (and us) with tough roles in Mary Reilly and The Normal Heart, been both touching and tough in Stepmom and Closer, wickedly funny in Mirror Mirror and Charlie Wilson’s War but my personal favourite performance is in My Best Friend’s Wedding, a deftly written, beautifully constructed and hilarious study of jealousy with great songs, a twisted heart and a fabulous resolution. With a new TV series (Homecoming) in the pipeline she is not going to exit the limelight any time soon. There will never be another, no matter how the pundits may tempt us every few years. Happy Birthday Screen Queen! Long may you reign.

 

 

 

Today is John Lennon’s 77th Birthday

John Lennon bw

Across The Universe
(Let It Be Version)
Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup
They slither while they pass, they slip away across the universe
Pools of sorrow waves of joy are drifting through my opened mind
Possessing and caressing me

Jai guru deva om
Nothing’s gonna change my world
Nothing’s gonna change my world
Nothing’s gonna change my world
Nothing’s gonna change my world

Images of broken light which dance before me like a million eyes
They call me on and on across the universe
Thoughts meander like a restless wind
Inside a letter box they
Tumble blindly as they make their way
Across the universe

Jai guru deva om
Nothing’s gonna change my world
Nothing’s gonna change my world
Nothing’s gonna change my world
Nothing’s gonna change my world

Sounds of laughter shades of life are ringing
Through my open ears inciting and inviting me
Limitless undying love which shines around me like a million suns
And calls me on and on across the universe

Jai guru deva om
Nothing’s gonna change my world
Nothing’s gonna change my world
Nothing’s gonna change my world
Nothing’s gonna change my world

Jai guru deva
Jai guru deva
Jai guru deva
Jai guru deva
Jai guru deva
Jai guru deva…

Happy 80th Birthday Dustin Hoffman August 8th 2017!

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Such a surprising star – and such a lucky break for the audience that he broke through in the late 60s with The Graduate:  the perfect choice for the perfect film. I got such a surprise when I found out he was an LA native. He seemed pure NYC.  As the Seventies progressed it looked like he got even better with every new film,  with some extraordinary performances in magically good movies. Look at them! Midnight CowboyLittle Big Man. Papillon. All the President’s Men…  What a run! He got a bit of a telling off from Laurence Olivier on Marathon Man (“why don’t you try acting, dear boy?”) but starred in that Ur-film of abject masculine paragons, Kramer Vs. Kramer, getting the Oscar. He started directing Straight Time but left it to Ulu Grosbard and wouldn’t return to that role until Quartet in 2012.  The Eighties were straightforward star vehicles albeit with some Oscar bids in Tootsie as the cross-dressing actor and the lovable numbers-obsessed autistic brother in Rain Man.  In between more conventional parts in the 90s were the comic and satiric – wasn’t Wag the Dog pretty great?! Especially his take on Robert Evans! As the roles became less important and more supporting characters he took to kids’ films and quirky family comedy but made time for auteur directors like Tom Tykwer (Perfume) and most recently Noah Baumbach (The Meyerowitz Stories). His heyday may be in the rearview mirror but he is constantly surprising us as he always has. What a guy! Happy birthday Mr Hoffman. Please don’t stop acting!

Happy 75th Birthday Harrison Ford! 13th July 2017

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Harrison Ford is 75 years old. How bizarre is that? He’s still Han Solo (well…). He’s still Indiana Jones (next feature upcoming, in a couple of years, maybe). He says he feels Irish but acts Jewish (it’s a thing.) He acts like acting doesn’t matter (it’s ‘let’s pretend’, he claims) but he’s always been interested in it and signed to Columbia in his earliest days in Hollywood after doing an acting class and sportscasting and summer stock and hoping to work in radio. In between TV and film spots he worked as a carpenter and even built a recording studio for Sergio Mendez. Meeting up with George Lucas and Francis Coppola meant a major turnaround in his fortunes and he became a reliable supporting player in American Graffiti and The Conversation and then … you know the rest. He went from a decade of relative struggle to a decade of incomparable superstardom. Christopher Walken was the first choice for Star Wars;  Tom Selleck for Raiders of the Lost Ark: Ford was now the actor in the (most unexpectedly) biggest grossing films. He made a really great romantic detective film (Witness) and moved into another franchise with the Tom Clancy films. He proved in Working Girl he could do more conventional funny.  He made Presumed Innocent work. Just what is it about this laconic, cynical and economic persona that makes him a star with such huge appeal? He doesn’t reach out to the audience. He doesn’t care about being liked. He’s not begging for it. That distance ironically (in every sense!) makes us appreciate him more. He has come up short in some of the missteps in the late 70s, the mid-90s and a lot of his Noughties output. But when he strikes a film that has the right tone for his particular brand of nonchalance and epic cool, the world feels like it’s on its axis again. Personally I fell in love with him in Raiders – the first film I went to see over and over and over … And I think Blade Runner is a masterpiece (he didn’t, not at the time.) And the sequel 2049 is the only film I’m anticipating this year with anything resembling interest. And 2020? You know there’s only one film I want to see. Archaeology never mattered more, not to anyone! Happy Birthday Mr Ford. Hearts, flowers and safe flying …