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David Poland

By David Poland

If It’s Friday, It Must Be Seattle

We’ve been in Seattle for about a day and a half so far. I’ve seen 2 movies, attended a filmmaker dinner, dropped by the Gay La, and enjoyed an evening of tribute to a game Sissy Spacek, hosted by Richard Corliss… all in between Twitter fighting over whether “Film Critics” are assholes, heroes, or something in between. Not much news going on out there. Disney still believes in windows… kinda. Prometheus kicks ass, no matter how much nitpicking.

Typical June.

Seattle is wet and a bit cool and gray… which is still lovely, in a northwestern kinda way.

I do love it up here. It’s a sane and loving festival. Terrific fest staff. Tremendous host hotel. And great restaurants. Add Billy Friedkin, some K Fried C, and mix.

42 Responses to “If It’s Friday, It Must Be Seattle”

  1. Colin says:

    Question for the blog: Which director had a better first three feature films than Ridley Scott with The Duellists, Alien, and Blade Runner? Here’s the rest of my top 10 in no particular order: Spielberg, Wes Anderson, Coens, Paul Thomas Anderson, George Lucas, Rob Reiner, Roman Polanski, Terrence Malick, and Quentin Tarantino.

  2. Yancy Skancy says:

    Preston Sturges. Orson Welles did pretty well, even if THE STRANGER isn’t up to the level of his first two (no surprise).

    I hope nobody adds Stephen Daldry.

  3. Matt says:


    Haven’t you heard of Ezzell’s Fried Chicken?

  4. Colin says:

    Yeah, Yancey, I had Sturges as another possibility, but I’ve never seen “Christmas in July.” Would you recommend it? I also haven’t seen “The Stranger,” but I will definitely have to add that one to my Netflix queue

  5. Greg says:

    Glad you’re enjoying yourself up here. I was working concessions last night at the Tribute to Sissy Spacek and recognized you from the Ebertfest panel last year (sadly, I wasn’t able to attend Ebertfest this year).

    And thanks for your kind words about the staff. I will be sure to pass them on. :-)

  6. Ray Pride says:

    This may well be a reference to a scene in Friedkin’s new film, Matt.

  7. berg says:

    the fried chicken leg in Killer Joe will be more talked about than the manopod in Prometheus

  8. Yancy Skancy says:

    Colin: Yes, I’d recommend CHRISTMAS IN JULY. Fun little movie.

  9. Bob Burns says:

    Altman? technically not with a first film no one’s seen, but, then…..

    MASH, Brewster McCloud (which I luv)& McCabe and Mrs Miller

  10. JS Partisan says:

    Prometheus? Meh.

  11. Krillian says:

    I would see Prometheus today, but the wife still hasn’t seen Avengers and it’s her turn to pick… At least she doesn’t want to see What To Expect When You’re Expecting.

  12. movieman says:

    What about Bogdanovich?
    You can’t find three more disparate (yet all wonderful in their own way) films than “Targets,” “TLPS” and “What’s Up, Doc?”

  13. Colin says:

    Bob: I actually thought that MASH was Altman’s first and would have included him based on that, McCabe (my favorite Western), and the batshit crazy Brewster McCloud. But then I saw (as you note) that he directed “That Cold Day in the Park first, which sounds crazy in its own right. It looks like the entire thing is actually on Youtube:

    movieman: Bogdanovich seems to fall in the same boat, with the three you listed all being great movies but preceded by his debut, “Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women,” which is also on Youtube:

  14. alynch says:

    The Farrelly Brothers. Dumb & Dumber, Kingpin, and There’s Something About Mary are quite simply three of the funniest films I’ve ever seen, made all the more remarkable by being their first three. Those three are enough to give them a lifetime pass for all the crap they’ve made since.

    So apparently Prometheus is doing really well, which has me wondering something. Has the same actor/actress ever fronted two separate $50 million openings on consecutive weekends? And I’m talking about someone who’s well known and famous, not some character actor who just happens to be in two different films on consecutive weekends. At first blush, it seems like a rather remarkable achievement.

  15. Hallick says:

    The Farrelly Brothers (Dumb & Dumber, Kingpin, There’s Something About Mary). And I personally love Me, Myself & Irene, but I know it has a lot of detractors out there.

  16. Hallick says:

    Okay, alynch beat me to it.

  17. Colin says:

    alynch, the Farrelly Brothers are definitely a great choice. They’re arguably the winners in the “comedy” category. I had thought Harold Ramis might be a good choice with Caddyshack, National Lampoon’s Vacation, and Groundhog Day, but then realized that he directed Club Paradise before Groundhog Day.

  18. Yancy Skancy says:

    Altman did COUNTDOWN before that COLD DAY IN THE PARK.

  19. Hallick says:

    I also have a soft spot in my heart for Alex Cox’s four film run: Repo Man, Sid and Nancy, Straight To Hell (Sy Richardson is THE MAN), and Walker. Highway Patrolman was his fifth one, but I still haven’t seen it.

    And who doesn’t love Takeshi Kitano’s Violent Cop/Boiling Point/A Scene At The Sea/Sonatine streak?

  20. LYT says:

    Terry Gilliam’s first-three run is INSANELY good. Assuming you don’t count MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL, which is codirected with Terry Jones, it’s JABBERWOCKY, TIME BANDITS, and BRAZIL. If you do count HOLY GRAIL, replace BRAZIL with that and it’s still an outstanding triptych. No real missteps from him after that till THE BROTHERS GRIMM (not terrible, just not the same level) and TIDELAND (icky and annoying).

  21. cadavra says:

    Billy Wilder: THE MAJOR AND THE MINOR, FIVE GRAVES TO CAIRO, DOUBLE INDEMNITY. First two very good, third a classic.

  22. Joe Leydon says:

    Truffaut: The 400 Blows, Shoot the Piano Player, Jules and Jim.

  23. berg says:

    we can go on all day on top threes … here’s the thing, the whole concept of seeing J&J, Xmas in July, Major and the Minor …. back in the day and yes dinosaurs still roamed the earth, you saw those very films in theaters because there were alway rep or specialty houses playing those films two a night, seven nights a week …. frankly if a person hasn’t seen Xmas in July I have to wonder at the veracity of their speil ….

  24. movieman says:

    Colin- I’ve never considered “Prehistoric Woman” an “official” Bogdanovich film since it was mostly comprised of footage shot by someone else and “assembled” by Bog to make a (quasi) releasable film as a favor to Corman.
    At least Woody’s fingerprints all over “Tiger Lily” since the soundtrack was completely overhauled and made into something distinctly “Woody.”
    I had no idea “Cold Day” was on Youtube. That’s my Altman holy grail: the one film of his I’ve never seen. I’ll definitely have to check it out.
    Thanks for the head’s-up!

  25. Colin says:

    Yancy: Good catch on “Countdown” for Altman. Here’s a quote from Ebert about it that seems pertinent to the discussion:

    Some great directors are born; others are made. If we can Judge by Robert Altman’s “Countdown”, which plays Friday as part of the Altman festival at the Biograph, he belongs in the second category. It’s a movie that’s fitfully interesting, often boring, and gives no hint at all of such riches to come as “M*A*S*H”, “Nashville” and “Three Women.”

    Hallick: Like you, I’m a big fan of Cox’s first 4 but oddly haven’t seen “Highway Patrolman” anything he’s done since.

    LYT: Great call on Gilliam. He’s definitely a no brainer to add to my top 10 based on that body of work.

    cadavra: I really need to catch those first 2 Wilder films. I’ve seen most of what he did since Indemnity but have never seen his freshman and sophomore efforts.

    Joe: The same goes for me and Shoot the Piano Player. That’s one that I’ve always meant to see.

    berg: My list of films seen, especially older films, is definitely incomplete. But I’m certainly glad for the responses. I now have a list of titles that I definitely need to track down.

    movieman: You’re a bit ahead of me. I also need to track down Beyond Therapy and (apparently) Countdown.

  26. movieman says:

    Perhaps the most interesting thing about “Countdown” (a movie Altman got bounced from during post because of his experiments with the soundtrack) is seeing Caan and Duvall paired together a year before Coppola’s “The Rain People.”
    And–drumroll, please–four years before “The Godfather.”
    For the record, Maltin gave “Countdown” 3 1/2 stars.

  27. movieman says:

    It’s almost comical considering the huge gaps between films, but Malick’s
    first three features (“Badlands,” “Days of Heavens” and “The Thin Red Line”) and Lindsay Anderson’s (“This Sporting Life,” “If…” and “O Lucky Man”) are pretty impressive, too.

  28. movieman says:

    …as are Mike Nichols’ (“Virginia Woolf?,” “The Graduate” and “Catch 22″) and another theater-trained director I sometimes refer to as Nichols’ heir apparent, Sam Mendes (“American Beauty,” “Road to Perdition,” “Jarhead”).

  29. Joe Leydon says:

    Warning: Beyond Therapy is painful. Just painful.

  30. movieman says:

    Sad but true, Joe.
    I remember breaking a sweat to make a weekday matinee of “Beyond Therapy” at the old Gemini Twin on 2nd Avenue on an exceptionally warm spring afternoon.
    15 minutes into the movie I wondered why I even bothered.
    If “Therapy” isn’t the nadir of Altman’s career (“A Perfect Couple” and “Company” are pretty terrible, too), it comes awfully close.

  31. Colin says:

    Just thought of another (current) example: Tom McCarthy with The Station Agent, The Visitor, and Win.

    And yeah, I think I’ve pretty much avoided Beyond Therapy based upon its reputation. Currently, my least favorite Altman movie is O.C. and Stiggs.

  32. christian says:

    If you count BONNIE AND CLYDE as the start of Penn’s Final Cut phase, you get ALICE’S RESTAURANT and LITTLE BIG MAN.

  33. movieman says:

    I actually like “O.C. and Stiggs.” Go figure, huh?
    But good call on McCarthy. He’s definitely the real deal.
    Kasdan had a pretty good run back in the early ’80s with “Body Heat,” “Big Chill” and “Silverado.”
    And in the summer of “Moonrise Kingdom,” it would be amiss to forget Wes Anderson’s “Bottle Rocket,” “Rushmore” and “Tenenbaums” trifecta.
    Can’t forget the Coens either: “Blood Simple,” “Raising Arizona” and “Miller’s Crossing.”
    Or Albert Brooks: “Real Life,” “Modern Romance” and “Lost in America.”

  34. Yancy Skancy says:

    THE COMPANY is actually one of my favorite Altman films.

    A big ditto to Albert Brooks.

    I haven’t seen JARHEAD, but I vote ‘no’ on Mendes.

    Fellini has eight greats in a row by my count (including his co-directed first film, but not his segments of omnibus films), from VARIETY LIGHTS through 8 1/2.

  35. Oddvark says:

    If you don’t count Piranha Part 2 (which he apparently quit early on), James Cameron’s first 3 features were pretty impressive:
    The Terminator, Aliens, The Abyss

    And Tim Burton had:
    Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, Beetlejuice, Batman

    Some others who made a strong first impression —
    Baz Luhrman: Strictly Ballroom, Romeo+Juliet, Moulin Rouge
    David Lynch: Eraserhead, The Elephant Man, Dune
    Spike Jonze: Being John Malkovich, Adapdation, Where the Wild Things Are

    And here’s a couple that I thought were the greatest when I was growing up —
    John Hughes: Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Weird Science
    Cameron Crowe: Say Anything, Singles, Jerry Maguire

    And a couple of guys who seem to consistently make solid, interesting (if not great) films, and IMHO haven’t missed yet —
    Alexander Payne: Citizen Ruth, Election, About Schmidt
    Jason Reitman: Thank You For Smoking, Juno, Up in the Air

  36. Colin says:

    The Coens and Wes Anderson were in my original top 10, and I think that despite all of the other names mentioned, they stay there. Kasdan would probably be in my second ten. Love “Body Heat” and “Silverado,” but “The Big Chill” was just okay for me. Maybe now with a few more years behind me I would hold it in higher regard. Albert Brooks would definitely be a contender. I love those first 3 films as well as his 4th, “Defending Your Life.”

  37. movieman says:

    Colin- Thanks again for alerting me to “Cold Day” on Youtube. It was fascinating to see Altman’s nascent style at play–even in a director-for-hire gig–and I was a bit stunned at how much Sandy Dennis reminded me more of Elizabeth Hartman (maybe it was the haircut) than Sandy Dennis.
    Also (quite accidentally) discovered a treasure trove of other rarities/obscurities on the Tube: everything from Karel Reisz’s “Isadora,”
    Peter Greenaway’s “The Baby of Macon,” Jean Eustache’s “The Mother and the Whore,” “Marco Ferreri’s “The Last Woman,” George Stevens’ “The Only Game in Town” and Friedkin’s “The Birthday Party,” to Don Johnson’s movie debut (“The Magic Garden of Stanley Sweetheart”) and the post-“Heartbreak Kid” Jeannie Berlin (“Sheila Levine…”).
    Sadly, Resnais’ “Stavisky” has Bulgarian (rather than English) subtitles, and both “The Emigrants” and “New Land” are in their atrociously dubbed English-language versions.
    Still, it was a great find. Thanks again!

  38. Glamourboy says:

    As a big Altman fan I have to throw in some thoughts….YES, Beyond Therapy is a mess…especially if you love the Durang play as I do. But, Glenda Jackson is hysterical in it, as is Julie Haggerty. OC and Stiggs is pretty terrible (yes, you have to come to understand that Altman’s style worked only sometimes)…Even worse is Health, which has little to recommend. But then there are his little-seen classics like Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean that make me love him all over again.

  39. Colin says:

    My favorite Altman curiosity is “Secret Honor,” with Phillip Baker Hall just killing it as Richard Nixon. I will quote Ebert again:

    “That bare description may make ‘Secret Honor’ sound like ‘My Dinner with Andre,’ but rarely have I seen ninety more compelling minutes on the screen. Nixon is portrayed by Philip Baker Hall, an actor previously unknown to me, with such savage intensity, such passion, such venom, such scandal, that we cannot turn away. Hall looks a little like the real Nixon; he could be a cousin, and he sounds a little like him. That’s close enough. This is not an impersonation, it’s a performance.”

  40. Joe Leydon says:

    I actually recall enjoying A Perfect Couple. And A Wedding and Fool for Love, for that matter. But Quartet? OC and Stiggs? Beyond Therapy? The horror! The horror!

  41. Joe Leydon says:

    Er…. Quintet.

  42. cadavra says:

    Yeah, QUINTET is rock-bottom for me as well. The whole movie is built on a board game whose instructions are never given to the audience. The picture might as well have been in Swahili, as we had absolutely no clue (pun not intended) WTF was going on.

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