Wild Bill – The Chain Reaction Film Club

Film 44: Wild Bill

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The Rules

My chum Tim and I watch a film every week, taking it in turns to pick. The only catch? Each film has to be linked to the previous one by a shared actor.

Previously On…

Last time we watched Streets Of Fire on the big screen at the Prince Charles Cinema. It’s one of the few films that would have been improved by being a musical.

The Shortlist

Colors (1988)

Night Shift (1982)

The Lincoln Lawyer (2011)

Eddie and the Cruisers (1983)

Hollywoodland (2006)

Wild Bill (1995)

Rumble Fish (1983)

 

The Choice

A relatively long shortlist this time round, and it was, by all accounts, tricky to narrow it down to seven. There were great lists to be had just from Willem Dafoe or Diane Lane’s filmographies. This time around neither of us remembered seeing any of the choices, and they’re a varied bunch.

Night Shift is a comedy about a brothel in a morgue starring Henry Winkler and Michael Keaton! Colors is a tough cop film set in gangland LA, with Sean Penn the hot-headed rookie to Robert Duvall’s experienced cop.

I didn’t go to see The Lincoln Lawyer at the cinema because I wasn’t really a fan of Matthew McConnaughey. Fast-forward a few years and I have a massive man-crush on him, so totally up for this.

I’ve been meaning to see Rumble Fish and Hollwoodland for years. Eddie and the Cruisers stars Michael Pare, so I’d love to see if he’s any better in it than he was in Streets Of Fire.

And then there’s Wild Bill, a Western biopic. I’ve been underwhelmed by both biopics and westerns recently, and especially by a western biopic.

So of course that’s the film Tim chose.

The Link

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Diane Lane in Wild Bill

Diane Lane is the shared actor between Streets Of Fire and Wild Bill. In Streets Of Fire she’s a rock singer who gets kidnapped by a biker gang. She’s also in Rumble Fish and The Outsiders, both of which involve gangs and came out around the same time as Streets…

I haven’t actually seen her in that much, apart from Judge Dredd (the Stallone one), Trumbo and Man Of Steel, all of which I’ve tried to forget. She’s one of those names that I’ve always been aware of though. She didn’t have that much to do in Streets Of Fire, so I’m hoping Wild Bill might give me a bit more of a feel for her style.

Wild Bill and me

I don’t know much about this film, other than I almost shortlisted it myself before. It’s directed by Walter Hill (Warriors, Streets Of Fire) and stars Jeff Bridges which is pretty enticing. And it’s a biopic of Wild Bill Hickock. That’s about it…

As far as my knowledge of Wild Bill Hickock that’s at a similar level. In the TV show Deadwood (my gosh I love Deadwood) I remember he dies relatively early on. Shot in the back during a card game. And I’m pretty sure he joined a circus for a bit… Well hopefully even if the film isn’t great I’ll be able to learn a little more about the man himself – much like The Aviator recently.

IMDB says

The early career of legendary lawman Wild Bill Hickock is telescoped and culminates in his relocation in Deadwood and a reunion with Calamity Jane. 5.9 stars.

I says

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The man himself

Well then. I’ve now watched the film and done a little bit of research. And I am Not Happy. Here’s an overview of the film (spoilers, but honestly I’m saving you a couple of hours of your life):

Wild Bill goes to Deadwood. A young man there is abusive towards him. Turns out years previously that Bill had a relationship with a woman who had a son from a previous marriage. They split, amicably. The woman’s life went downhill. The woman’s son blamed Wild Bill for his mother’s state and, guess what? He’s come to Deadwood to set things straight. After much to-ing and fro-ing the young man hires some goons, then can’t quite go through with it. Bill kills said goons but lets the young man live and buys him a drink. Young man shoots Wild Bill in the back.

Fine. Whatever. It wasn’t brilliantly told – the flashbacks were heavy handed – but was functional.

However. That’s not how it went down. The chap that killed Wild Bill in reality was someone who was angry about losing to him at cards the previous night. So the central pillar of the film is just a load of guff. At that point you might as well change some names and fictionalise the whole shebang and maybe we could all have a bit more fun.

The film is based in part on the book Deadwood, and in part on a play called Fathers and Sons. It’s the latter which is I think where this fictionalised version of events comes from. There’s an almost interesting scene in the film when the young man and his goons burst into a saloon where Wild Bill and Calamity Jane are, and then… it’s a bit of a stand off. The young man could kill Bill, but doesn’t quite have the gumption. They stay in deadlock all night, before the man and his goons flee. That’s when Bill chases after them before bringing the boy back to the bar.

And that, as the whole film, could be quite interesting (if it stopped purporting to have any resemblance to reality). Turns out I think that’s what the play was. All the set-up and flashbacks in the film distract from this interesting and potentially tense night.

So I watched a mediocre film and came out actually knowing less about Wild Bill than I knew going in. Crumbs.

And Diane Lane? A relatively thankless role as Miss Perfect in flashbacks. What the hell did she ever see in Wild Bill? Or this script?

A final thought – Wild Bill was 39 when he was shot. I pointed out in my Wyatt Earp post that Doc Holliday died at 36. It was a shit old life in the West.

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The Dude himself

The Verdict

“You ought to know better than to touch another man’s hat,” says Wild Bill in the film. But apparently it’s fine to mess around with another man’s life story.

Coming Attractions

Loads of interesting people in this – not just Jeff Bridges and Diane Lane (plenty of her films on the longlist sounded worth a watch), but John Hurt, Keith Carradine, Ellen Barkin and Bruce Dern.

One thing is clear though: I won’t be picking a biopic. Or a western.

Although I do still have a hankering for Tombstone…

@BornToPootle

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The Aviator – The Chain Reaction Film Club

Film 42: The Aviator

The_Aviator_Poster

The Rules

My chum Tim and I watch a film every week, taking it in turns to pick. The only catch? Each film has to be linked to the previous one by a shared actor.

Previously On…

Last time we watched The Fifth Element on the 20th anniversary of its UK release. And it made me feel young again.

The Shortlist

Once again we’re bending things slightly and attempting to get to a specific film. We’re going to see Streets Of Fire at the cinema and want to include that as part of the CRFC. So it’s my choice and we need a film which has shared actors with both The Fifth Element and Streets of Fire.

Turns out that’s quite a small pool (I have discounted a few that looked bobbins, fyi).

Trespass (1992)

The Aviator (2004)

Chaplin (1992)

Lucky Number Slevin (2006)

Basquiat (1996)

The Choice

I’ve seen Chaplin and The Aviator before; I’m well up for a Chaplin rewatch – I remember Robert Downey jr’s performance being sensational – and I only watched The Aviator in fits and spurts while doing other things so need to reappraise properly. Tim has seen Lucky Number Slevin recently so I guess I’ll have to watch that on my own time.

Trespass stars both Ice T and Ice Cube which makes me happier than it should. It sounds like a very standard actiony thrillery thing but there’s the lingering sense we can do better. Basquiat is a more unusual choice – neither of us are particularly keen on modern art, but the cast is pretty exciting…

In the end the lure of Di Caprio and Scorcese won me over. Time to take a proper look at The Aviator.

The Link

Ian holm

The man knows how to rock a bow tie. Ian Holm in The Aviator

Ian Holm is the common ground between The Fifth Element and The Aviator. I listed his performance as one of the key things that makes The Fifth Element so great – he has an almost childish naivety that makes for some excellent comedy. It’s sometimes hard to remember that he’s the same man that gave me nightmares by spewing that horrible white porridgy stuff in Alien. He’s never just a safe pair of hands, he always seems to bring something more to a role.

It’s a shame that I’ve never seen him on stage, as I think he’d be spectacular. I can envisage him and Anthony Sher fighting over similar roles… Actually, having had that thought I’ve looked up his stage career – after a bout of stage fright in 1976 he has apparently only returned to the stage a handful of times. Oh to have seen his Lear in 1997!

The Aviator and me

As I mentioned above, I have seen this before but without really paying it proper attention. The only thing I really remember is Cate Blanchett’s accent.

I’m a big fan of the Leo/Marty pairing. I’m not generally a fan of crime films for some reason, but The Departed has become one of my favourite films. I loved Shutter Island and The Wolf of Wall Street too. The physical comedy that Scorcese gets out of Di Caprio in the latter is sensational.

The film is about Howard Hughes, I recall that much. Hughes is one of those names that I know more from pop culture spoofs than anything else – Mr Burns’ Spruce Moose, Tony Stark’s look (more recently Tony Stark’s dad’s look)… To be honest I get him a bit muddled with Howard Hawks. But then I get Eva Braun and Ava Gardner muddled too, so what do I know? Actually, having googled a bit it turns out that Hughes and Hawks co-directed at least one film. So that doesn’t help me much.

IMDB says

A biopic depicting the early years of legendary director and aviator Howard Hughes’ career from the late 1920s to the mid-1940s. 7.5 stars.

I says

the-aviator-still

This is how we started the film: optimistic, eyes to the horizon…

Well IMDB is right, it’s certainly a biopic depicting the early years yadda yadda yadda.

It’s a sumptuously made biopic depicting yadda yadda yadda. The costume budget alone was 2 million dollars.

It’s also an interestingly shot biopic depicting yadda yadda yadda. The colour of the film changes to reflect the film colourisation techniques of the 20s to 40s.

And Cate’s accent (playing Katherine Hepburn) is brilliant. She’s a hair’s breadth away from being in The Hudsucker Proxy, which is almost the highest level of praise I can heap on anyone.

It’s hard to get excited though. Maybe if I were more interested in aviation? But the sight of Hughes obsessing and spending millions pursuing his passion is a bit… dull. And when the inevitable downturn comes around the 90 minute mark it feels like it could all be wrapped up in 20 minutes. But somehow there’s another hour and twenty to go.

Di Caprio is fine, he’s clearly perfecting that intense, wounded stare that’s served him well over the last decade and a bit – he almost seems to vibrate with internal rage or sorrow. The supporting cast is as fantastic as one might expect – Ian Holm is in excellent quasi naive form as a scientist out of his depth in a memorable breast-measuring scene. The likes of Alan Alda, Alec Baldwin and Frances Conroy give everything a boost too.

Maybe it’s a biopic thing. If I’d chosen Chaplin perhaps I’d be saying exactly the same – fine performances but ultimately not very affecting. But I’ve come out of it knowing more about Hughes than I knew going in. And from a bit of cursory googling it looks like they haven’t taken too many liberties with the truth.

I just hope I remember it slightly more this time.

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… and this is how we ended it. It was a hot day, alright?

The Verdict

Unlike the Spruce Goose, the film never really takes flight. But with 11 Oscar nominations to its credit, maybe it’s just not quite to my taste.

Coming Attractions

We’re heading to the cinema! Streets Of Fire at the Prince Charles Cinema to be precise. Because my world needs more Jim Steinman. Everyone’s world needs more Jim Steinman. It’s possible I’m also going to the Bat Out Of Hell musical in a couple of weeks…

@BornToPootle