It’s movie day today, starting with a movie about movies. The Player was a return to prominence of Robert Altman, who hadn’t really had a bona fide hit since the 70s, and it’s easy to see why it was popular. Filled with cameos, and featuring a very cynical look at the movie business, all wrapped around a sort-of thriller plot, it really is a lot of fun, especially when your idea of fun, like mine, is recognising actors in things. I won’t remotely be able to catch every cameo, but here goes.
Here’s Fred Ward talking about long opening tracking shots, while the movie he’s in is doing a long opening tracking shot.
Buck Henry is pitching ‘The Graduate Part 2’ to executive Griffin Mill. He wrote the original, of course.
Adam Simon directed the low budget horror movie Carnosaur, based on a novel by SF writer and journalist John Brosnan.
That’s Jeremy Piven (linking to yesterday’s tape, from The Larry Sanders Show) leading the visitors around.
I’m not entirely sure, but I think this is Debra Hill and Lynda Obst, producers of The Fisher King. I don’t know where I heard that, though.
This is director Alan Rudolph, a protege of Altman.
Once the title sequence is over the plot kicks in. Tim Robbins plays Griffin Mill, studio executive. He’s been receiving threatening postcards from a writer, and he doesn’t know who it is.
He’s received a lot of them – and that book about screenwriting in his drawer – I’ve got a copy of exactly that edition.
Peter Gallagher plays Larry Levy, a new executive, looking to replace Griffin.
Brion James plays the studio head, Griffin’s boss.
Griffin works out who the writer is by going back over his call logs, and gets back to a writer called David Kahane. He goes to his house, and rings his phone. He’s not there but his girlfriend is, June Gudmundsdottir, played by Greta Scacchi. Griffin flirts a bit with her, on the phone, then finds out the writer is out at the pictures.
Griffin goes to the cinema to accidentally bump into the writer, played by Vincent D’Onofrio. Their meeting isn’t cordial, as D’Onofrio already hates Griffin for never getting back to him, and despises everything he stands for. Then, after a charged encounter in the parking lot, Griffin ends up assaulting him, and accidentally kills him.
Griffin starts seeing June, and the police, in the form of Whoopi Goldberg, talk to him because he was the last person to see Kahane alive. Given all the celebrity cameos, it’s a bit strange when she appears, picking up an Oscar from a shelf. Working out who is a character and who is themselves takes a few seconds throughout this movie.
Griffin’s life remains complicated when the postcards keep arriving. Whoever is sending the cards arranges a meeting at a hotel, but before the meeting can happen, he meets Dean Stockwell and Richard E Grant, a producer and writer pitching their movie. It’s a gritty drama about the death penalty, and they’re insistent that it has no stars, and no happy ending because “That’s reality”. This pitch becomes a bit of a running gag as the movie goes through the production process.
Lyle Lovett plays another detective working with Goldberg, following Griffin around.
Cynthia Stevenson is good as Griffin’s assistant, who’s also his girlfriend, and therefore rejected by him when he starts seeing Scacchi.
The ending of the film is very cynical. Griffin is called in for a lineup, as the police have a witness, but she ends up picking out Lyle Lovett from the lineup, so Griffin is out of the frame. Cut to a year later and Habeas Corpus, the ‘important’ movie pitched by Richard E Grant, is being screened. The ‘no stars’ dictum clearly hadn’t entirely stuck – there’s Susan Sarandon and Peter Falk witnessing the climactic execution.
The woman on Death Row, wrongly accused, is now played by Julia Roberts, with Ray Walston as the priest.
Also glimpsed in the scene, Louise Fletcher and Rene Auberjonois.
And the innocent Roberts goes to the gas chamber. The pellets drop. The chamber fills with gas. And she dies. Because That’s Real. That Happens.
Except not in this version. Suddenly, from down a backlit corridor
comes Bruce Willis as the DA who was in love with Roberts, and who has just discovered that her husband had faked his own death. But now he gets there in time to smash the windows on the has chamber.
“What took you so long?” “Traffic was a bitch.”
The real film has an ending that’s more ambivalent. Griffin is now the head of the studio, and it was his suggestions that turned the movie into a hit. His former assistant Bonnie is horrified by the compromise, and is fired by Gallagher. Griffin doesn’t help her, he just heads home.
One the way home, he hears another pitch. It’s from the writer who had been sending him postcards, who proceeds to pitch him the story we’ve just seen. Griffin asks how it ends. “He gets away with it?” “Absolutely, it’s a Hollywood Ending”
So that’s the story, let’s see if we can find some cameos. Joel Grey from Cabaret.
Angelica Huston and John Cusack
Jack Lemmon plays piano
Sydney Pollack, film director, plays Griffin’s lawyer in the film.
There’s a movie in production starring Scott Glenn
and Lily Tomlin
And in the scene right after, his daughter Andie MacDowell. (Not his daughter.)
Teri Garr – another returnee from Larry Sanders.
That’s probably only a third of the names in the credits.
A bit of personal trivia: This was one of the first movies I bought on DVD. I was a bit of an early adopter, starting with a DVD drive and hardware MPEG decoder on my PC, which I had hacked so it could play NTSC discs on PAL TVs. DVD hadn’t been launched officially in the UK, so I had to get all my DVDs from the US for a while. Even when it was launched over here, the UK discs were often worse than the US releases when it came to extras, so I do have quite a number of US discs, and all my DVD players had to cope with multi regions. Good old region coding.
One interesting thing in the credits – the film was recorded in ‘Ultra Stereo’, the cheaper version of Dolby Stereo that’s usually only used in really low budget films, so I’m slightly surprised to see it used here.
After this (albeit dark) comedy, a proper thriller now, as Goldie Hawn stars in Deceived. I might have seen this one in the cinema, but it’s got one of those non-specific titles, so I can’t be sure.
It’s a slow burner. Goldie Hawn is stood up for a blind date, but while she’s there she sees another man who she wonders if he’s her date, Adam Lucas. But he’s not and she goes home.
The next day, the same man comes to her place of work by coincidence, with a delivery. He buys antiquities for museums, he had recognised her from the year before, they hit it off and they’re soon married with a small child.
At the museum, a curator is murdered while examining a necklace that Heard had bought. It’s made to look like suicide.
Heard goes out of town on business, but a friend tells Hawn that she’s sure she saw him in town. Then, she learns he bought a gift in New York when he was supposed to be in Boston.
He gets angry at the accusation that he’s hiding something, and leaves. After picking someone up in his car, he has an accident, and dies.
Shortly afterwards, the Social Security people tell her that Heard’s Social Security number wasn’t his, that it belonged to a man who died 16 years ago.
So she does a google search int he local library, using one of those analogue google machines they have for reading old newspapers.
She’s looking through old photographs in an album when her daughter asks about borrowing some stuff for dress up, one of which is the necklace that was a fake. The plot thickens.
Hawn goes looking for clues at Heard’s school, and finds his real name, Frank Sullivan.
She also finds his mother, still alive in New York.
After some scenes of suspense, her daughter saying there was a man in the house, and one of her friends being attacked in their apartment, she gets a call from Heard’s mother, but when she gets there she discovers Heard, alive. He tells her he had to fake his death because he was being blackmailed by a man called Daniel Sherman, who was getting him to buy fake pieces for the museum. And the necklace we saw earlier was the last one. He tells her she’s in danger if they don’t find it.
Hawn looks for it, but finds something else.
Heard has another life, and another wife.
He goes to their daughter’s school, finds out where the necklace is, then tells Hawn to get it. After some cat and mouse, Hawn tricks Heard into falling down a lift shaft, and that’s the end of him.
This wasn’t quite as twisty turny as I thought it might be. I thought the psychological stuff might have played more of a part, but this is basically ‘Goldie marries a cad.’ And I’m upset we didn’t learn that her blind date at the beginning was set up by him all along.
After this, the tape runs on, and there’s the start of Motel Hell. The tape ends during this.
- trail: Far and Away
- Thomas Cook
- VW Passat
- Haze Botanicals
- UK Living
- Campbell’s Soup
- trail: The Finest Hour