the fine print: Blues Brothers, Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs – the chaos and chemistry of how great films get made

February 11, 2013

Sports team huddles? I don’t want to be there. I don’t want to hear the coach. I don’t want to know what the caddie is telling Tiger Woods (Hahahahaha. As if). I don’t want to know. They get paid a lot of  money to know what to do and if they’re going to blow it, I don’t want the suspense to be ruined. I want to watch the PLAY. Obviously, I’m nearly alone in this. One nerd’s delight is, perhaps, just my vexation.

Other arenas of how-to fascinate me immensely.

I will admit to having wasted a few hours watching How It’s Made, the Discovery Channel show. Even reruns. How is aluminum foil made? Combination locks? Fiberglas kayaks? Incandescent lightbulbs? COWBOY BOOTS? Rivetting. Or maybe you had to be there?

Being there, in fact, is sometimes the thing that is so compelling about how-tos or behind-the-scenes features.

I know I wish I’d been there in 1979 and ’80 when the quicksilver of Dan Aykroyd and the late great John Belushi was captured onscreen by director John Landis for the Blues Brothers, a classic mashup of the comedy duo’s brilliant deadpan humour, car chases, storyline absent any semblance of logic and wonderful music performances by Aretha Franklin (in a diner waitress’s uniform, no less) and Cab Calloway (in a dazzlingly tuxedo, naturally) among others.

Lew Wasserman wished he’d been there. To knock some heads. The movie, also known to some as a bloated vanity project, didn’t kill Wasserman (the studio boss died in 2002), but he came close to killing it for going over budget and other cinematic sins.

Especially if you’re sick of making-of featurettes on DVD and Blu-ray that suck hugely, read this pretty good look behind the scenes on the making of the Blues Brothers, from the February issue of Vanity Fair. Then watch the movie. Or watch late night cable for the next airing.

Or if you’d like to stay with the you-are-there theme, grab the hard-copy March edition of Vanity Fair for an even better behind-the-scenes on the making of not one but two Quentin Tarantino films, featuring interviews with all the major players from Tarantino himself to Sam Jackson, Uma Thurman and John Travolta.

Pulp Fiction began as a mess of notes that newbie Tarantino handed to a “typist” friend (he then undid many of her lovingly, respectfully applied corrections) and, while he was fleshing it out, the writing of the Pulp Fiction script gave birth to what began as a third act but soon demanded to be made – immediately! – into Reservoir Dogs. Then, in a tidal wave of fulfilled expectations, came Pulp Fiction. Cumulatively, these films burned into our mind’s eye such scenes as a cop getting way more than an ear piercing, expert administration of the best cure for an overdose, a masked “gimp” getting his moment of terrible glory (well almost) and Bruce Willis uttering the only line he has  not overacted (well almost): “Zed’s dead, baby. Zed’s dead.

Long live cinema.


One comment

  1. The Blues Brothers piece is incredible. It’s hard to imagine that anything was ever done in those days with the amount of substances around.

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