Tag Archives: Mary Harron

Wednesday Round-Up: Mary Harron Has Brought Us the Lives of Valerie Solanas, Bettie Page, and … Anna Nicole Smith?

o-ANNA-NICOLE-SMITH-1-570

Mary Harron has one of modern cinema’s more unique, and uniquely cool, backgrounds. Though born in Canada she grew up in England, was an early contributor for the iconic Punk magazine and wrote for publications like The Guardian, and then moved into directing with the 1996 masterpiece (in my eyes) “I Shot Andy Warhol.” That film, the story of would-be Warhol assassin Valerie Solanas, is one of the finest films ever made about the Pop Art icon and the Factory scene.

She followed “Warhol” with an almost shocking departure: Bret Easton Ellis’s “American Psycho.” Filmmakers like Oliver Stone and David Cronenberg had attempted and failed to bring Patrick Bateman to the screen, but Harron succeeded by giving the film the satirical spin it needed. She also helped make Christian Bale a star.

“The Notorious Bettie Page” came next, and it was handsome but rather dull version of the pin-up icon’s life. Her last feature, the 2011 vampire film “The Moth Diaries,” cmae and went without a trace.

So there has been a bit of a downward trajectory from her first film on. Still, I’m not sure anyone saw her next project coming: Lifetime’s recently-aired biopic “The Anna Nicole Story.”

I have not watched it — although I did set the DVR to record a re-airing — but it is hard to feel much other than unease at the prospect of so talented a filmmaker taking on so garish a subject. But Film.com’s Matt Patches has made the film sound much more sensible, and even unmissable:

“At first glance, Harron’s Anne Nicole Smith biopic looks like the usual Lifetime schlocky melodrama full of drug abuse, soft core sex, and ridiculous twists (‘SHE WAS AMISH?!’). The iconography of Smith’s life lends itself to the Lifetime aesthetic — as evidenced in the trailer, quick cutting, camera sound effects, and a moody pop song easily turn Anne Nicole Smith’s life story into drama worthy of ‘Liz & Dick.’

“‘The Anna Nicole Story’ could have been another movie off the network’s conveyor belt. No one who tuned in would have batted an eye (and, perhaps, the movie would have more buzz) if it was a campy, exploitive interpretation of Nicole’s life. Yet with Harron, Lifetime finds a credible and sensitive filmmaker, able to elevate the material and mine its dramatic potential. They may not be HBO or AMC or Sundance or FX, but with ‘Anna Nicole,’ Lifetime realizes the potential of their brand. Deal in celebrity-driven tearjerkers, but make them good. With movie studios dropping the ball, there’s a window of opportunity for television and even unlikely brands like Lifetime are seizing it.”

Patches even sees the film as a cousin of Harron’s “Notorious Bettie Page,” as Harron again “examines the seductive qualities of fame on a woman at her lowest point.” I still find it odd to see Mary Harron at the helm of a Lifetime movie — especially THIS Lifetime movie. But Patches has succeeded in making me approach it with an open mind.

Meanwhile, here is Harron on why she made the film:

“Lifetime brought it to me and at first I was like, “Lifetime… hmm.” But I read the script and I’m always interested in doing women’s stories. What drew me to the Anna Nicole story was that the script was very sympathetic to her, because so much of the tabloid coverage of her was so sneering. I’m interested in beauty queens, and Anna Nicole is a kind of a Marilyn Monroe/Bettie Page for the 90s, and for the modern age of tabloids and reality TV. It is a tragic story and a lot of the outlines for those beauty queen stories are the same. They’re flying too close to the sun. I’m interested in these outsider people that society looks down on. I find them sympathetic and I find them interesting and I think that for all of Anna’s many faults as a mother and all the rest, she was a sweet person who was looking for happiness.”

The rest of this week’s round-up is Anna Nicole-free:

  • Sigh. The Stanley Kubrick exhibit recently ended its seven-month run at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and this video makes me depressed about how great it looked. Tour, please?
  • Here is a super-comprehensive site devoted to Cronenberg’s “The Fly.”
  • Lars Von Trier’s “Nymphomaniac” will not open for some time, but the director gave a few, ahem, tastes of what to expect this week: Here is the film’s “first chapter,” as well as the first released footage.
  • The AV Club asks an interesting question: “Does ‘Before Midnight’ dodge the hardest part of relationships?”
  • Channing Tatum takes a hit with the opening weekend failure of “White House Down.”
  • And finally, two more bits from The Guardian: First, a gleeful takedown of the Google-adoring flop “The Internship,” and a wonderfully moving piece about autism written by “Cloud Atlas” author David Mitchell.

Photo credit: Patrick Eccelsine

Wednesday Round-Up: I Wonder What Andy Warhol and Jack Nicholson Were Talking About …

Andy-and-Jack-Nicholson.jpg.r.nocrop.w2400.h2400

A diverse mix of links highlight this week’s round-up, including the U.K. debut of Shane Meadows’ new Stone Roses doc, the screening of a Woody Allen classic in Buffalo, and, of course, more on the box office failure of “After Earth.”

  • I hope you’ll be reading more from me soon on “Made of Stone,” Shane Meadows’ fly-on-the-wall documentary about the reunion of the mighty Stone Roses. It likely won’t get much play in the United States — and the meh reaction to the band’s Coachella headlining performances won’t help — but hopefully American anglophiles and Britpop freaks like myself will have a chance to see it soon. The film’s website has some cool details on the production and some great interviews, like this one, with Meadows. He seems to have a real understanding of how utterly important this group is to fans, and I’m sure that comes across in the movie; as the director of the great “This is England” puts it, “If you attach yourself to certain people at a certain point in your life, they never become human again, they’re always gods. The Stone Roses are like that for me.”
  • The web has been aflutter with David Lynch news this week, including word of a new album (featuring the lovely Lykke Li) and a strange piece of video that seems to indicate a new film is in the works. Lynch holds a special place for me, which I’m sure will come up on this site. Two of my favorite DL memories involve his 21st century classic, “Mulholland Drive.” The first is seeing it with my girlfriend (later wife) and friend while he smuggled in a messy Arby’s meal, and the second is staying up until the wee hours of the night with friends in college, breaking down “Mulholland” for our Paranoia and Film class. These five theories on WTF is happening in the film have been around for ages, but it’s always fun to revisit.
  • Coming this Friday and Saturday at the Screening Room in Amherst: “Sorry, Wrong Number” at 7:30 followed by “What’s Up, Tiger Lily?” at 9:15. I imagine Woody Allen’s “Tiger Lily” would be a fun group watch.
  • I really enjoyed this piece on the horrendous “A Good Day to Die Hard” that Scott Mestow wrote for The Week. I’ve always been a big fan of the series; “Die Hard 2” was one of the first R-rated films I ever saw. And I even thought “Live Free or Die Hard” was moderately acceptable. But “A Good Day” … It was a stunner on every level, and not in a good way. The film is on DVD and Blu-ray now. See it, and you’ll agree with me.
  • New York Magazine has a cool slideshow featuring images from the Andy Warhol: American Icon exhibit in Maine; my favorite is the Jack Nicholson pic above.
  • I’m not sure anyone is truly shocked that “After Earth” flopped, but the complete failure on every level, from box office to reviews, is noteworthy. So for Sony, what now?
  • I’m on the Indiewire network of sites several times a day, and Shadow and Act is one of my favorites. Here, the site’s Tambay A. Obenson points out how a recent New York Times story on what he refers to as “The New York Times’ annual ‘state of black cinema’ (broadly speaking) nod,” is pretty much “the same damn thing” he wrote on the blog recently. As a longtime reader of the site, I can tell you that Shadow and Act offers a far superior analysis of these issues day-in and day-out than the Times does in one story.
  • Finally … What the hell happened to Mary Harron?