Ep. 116 – Venom, A Star is Born

October 7, 2018 by  
Filed under Podcast

The CineSnob Podcast returns from its summer abroad, with reviews of “Venom” and “A Star is Born.” Cody also gives us a recap of Fantastic Fest, and we remind you to go download our friend Greg Sestero’s movie “Best F(r)iends: Vol. 1.”

Click here to download the episode!

A Star is Born

October 5, 2018 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Sam Elliott
Directed by: Bradley Cooper (debut)
Written by: Eric Roth (“The Insider”), Will Fetters (“The Best of Me”) and Bradley Cooper (debut)

Three-time Academy Award-nominated actor Bradley Cooper (“American Sniper”) makes a mostly convincing, albeit imperfect, directorial debut with “A Star Is Born,” the third reimagining of the film since the original version hit the silver screen more than 80 years ago.

In this newest reiteration, six-time Grammy-award-winning singer Lady Gaga steps into the spotlight where actresses Janet Gaynor (1937 version), Judy Garland (1954 version) and Barbara Streisand (1976 version) once stood. Gaga plays Ally, an aspiring musician swept off her feet by alcoholic rock star Jackson Maine (Cooper), who is instantaneously captivated by Ally’s talent when he sees her perform “La Vie en Rose” at a drag bar.

Witnessing Ally and Jackson courting each other during the first act of the film is when “A Star Is Born” is at its most charming and romantic. It never reaches the level of something like 2007’s Oscar-winning Irish drama “Once,” but Cooper and Gaga sell their relationship as a genuine love connection, despite its seemingly quick development.

Movie magic occurs when Jackson invites Ally onto the stage during one of his concerts to perform a duet with him. It’s unrealistic to think an original song could actually come together like that without a bit of rehearsal, but by the time Ally bravely takes the mic to sing the second verse of “Shallow” (a song co-written by Gaga, which will undoubtedly land an Oscar nod for Best Song), there’s no real reason to argue logic. The single is that good.

As soon as their relationship is established, however, the script starts losing momentum and seems to find comfort in falling into familiar territory. Again, “A Star Is Born” has a long history of remakes, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that screenwriters Eric Roth (“The Insider”), Will Fetters (“The Best of Me”) and Cooper, who is also credited as a writer, follow a conventional template. The dimming of one star and the rise of another is a formula that has worked well in the past, but Cooper is only somewhat successful in transforming it into a story that truly feels fresh.

During a scene in the final act, Jackson’s older brother Bobby (Sam Elliott) explains to Ally what Jackson’s musical philosophy is by describing music as “12 notes between any octave — 12 notes and the octave repeats” and adding that it’s up to the artist to say something significant enough inside those parameters to move listeners emotionally. In “A Star Is Born,” Cooper and Gaga have voices worth listening to, especially when they’re harmonizing in front of a crowd of thousands. We just wish the narrative mixed in a few more sharps and flats to ensure a clearly distinct sound and experience.

Sam Elliott – The Hero

July 15, 2017 by  
Filed under Interviews

In “The Hero,” Sam Elliott (“Mask,” “The Big Lebowski”) plays Lee Hayden, a beloved Western movie star and voice over actor in Hollywood who finds himself reflecting on his life during the twilight of his career when he receives a disheartening diagnosis from his doctor. Looking for a second chance to land a role with substance, and also a second chance to make up for lost time with his estranged daughter Lucy (Krysten Ritter), Lee is a man ready for change. When a young comedian named Charlotte (Laura Prepon) shows interest in him romantically, Lee must decide what he wants in life and how he hopes to be remembered as a father and entertainer.

During an interview with me a few weeks ago, Elliott, 73, talked to me about playing an actor for the first time in his career, working with director Brett Haley for a second time, and his opinion on receiving awards in Hollywood.

It’s obvious how important your voice has been throughout your career. How did it feel playing a character that has also benefited from the way he can deliver a line? Was it surreal?

Yeah, it was. It was the strangest thing playing an actor. I had never done that before. Bringing the voice over element into it made it more personal. It’s kind of a personal tale on some levels anyway, so bringing that into it really made it so.

What was it about “The Hero” specifically that attracted you to the role?

What attracted me to it was the opportunity to work with Brett Haley, the director and writer. We had done “I’ll See You in My Dreams,” so “The Hero” was born out of conversations Brett and I had when we were on the road doing promos for our other film. We logged a lot of miles together and ate a lot of meals together and shared a few drinks together. We really became close to one another. I really have a high regard for Brett. If all things go the way they should, which they normally don’t necessarily, this should be the start of a very long career for Brett. He’s an incredible filmmaker. I’ve had people write parts for me before, but I’ve never had anyone write a screenplay for me. The fact that he and Marc [Basch], the cowriter, went to the trouble of doing that, there was never a question to whether I was going to do this or not. It spoke to me right off the top.

Have your experiences doing voice over work during your career matched what is shown in the film? Is that how it worked for you?

That’s exactly how it worked. It’s very much true to the way it is and the doing of it. I don’t think I’d get as upset by being asked to do another take like Lee was. I’ve always looked at it as part of the deal. Even if [a director] knows they’ve got [a good take], they still want to hear one more for whatever reason.

These days, how do you decide on what roles you want to play? How has that changed over the years? I’m assuming scripts that are written specifically for one actor don’t come too often.

No, they don’t come along very often. A lot of [actors] dream about someone writing a part for us. In most instances, it never happens. Over the years, there were certainly times early on I was just eager to work period. If I got an offer to do something, I’d do it. Now, I’ve become a lot more selective about what I do. I’m always just looking for something that’s honest – something that rings true to me in terms of the story, character and dialogue.

In the film, Lee is given a Lifetime Achievement Award. How would you react if you were offered an award like that?

It certainly is an honor to receive awards from different organizations particularly those that have to do with Western heritage and with keeping the West alive. I’ve been honored a number of times for different projects I’ve done – by the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and The Western Heritage Awards down there in Oklahoma City. I am always honored by that. I’m not cynical about that at all. I always take that to heart. It’s always nice to get that kind of stuff, but that’s not why I’m in the game. It’s nice to be recognized, but I got in the game to do the work. It’s still that way today. That’s what’s most important to me – the work.

You’re in a business where awards seem to mean a lot in terms of success. I mean, if you’re an actor and win an Oscar, you’ll be marketed for the rest of your career as Academy Award nominated-actor so and so. Do you think awards are a good indication of what an actor has accomplished in his or her life?

I’ve always been a little skeptical about awards. I think it’s easy to award somebody that wins a footrace. I think if you had a group of actors that all play the same part then maybe you could make some kind of judgment about who pulled it off better or more interesting or whatever. For me, it’s not about the awards. It’s not about the money. I’ve wanted to do this since I was a little kid. I remember those days my mom and her sisters and her family from West Texas would always want me to sing. I was always a singer, for whatever reason. My mom took me to sing in the church choir when I was five years old and that was kind of the beginning of it. They always believed in me and encourage me about my dream to pursue an acting career. Those were the days.

In the film, Lee is an actor known for one major role in his career. You, of course, are known for a host of them in real life. As an actor, is there a role that you’d hope people remember you for? I loved you in “Mask” and, recently, “Grandma,” and, of course, “The Big Lebowski.”

There are special things about all of those. Often, it isn’t about the part, it’s about who I worked with doing the job. That makes it more special. I’ll always have a soft spot for a film called “Conagher” that my wife and I did together. We wrote the script together. It was an adaptation of a Louis L’Amour book. I produced it and we both acted in it. It was a TV show for TNT. It wasn’t a big screen thing.

I’ll have to seek that one out. I have to say, out of all your film performances, my all-time favorite is “Off the Map,” which I think is an underappreciated little masterpiece.

That was a nice little film. We shot that about 100 miles north of Santa Fe. It was a really special time. [Actress] Joan Allen was just unbelievable. I just loved working with her and being up in that country. It’s was breathtaking.

In the film, your character goes off on a cameraman from TMZ who is bothering you. Have you ever had an encounter in Hollywood with any of those guys before?

I’ve actually had a lot of encounters with those guys from TMZ. I live in Malibu and they used to camp by the market where I used to shop. So, I had a lot of encounters with those guys and they were always nice encounters. I’ve never been harassed. With that said, there have been times where I have been hounded and harassed by guys and I don’t particularly like that. I don’t know that I would overreact like Lee did, but I get that. I understand it.

Sam Elliott – Barnyard

June 8, 2006 by  
Filed under Interviews

Although he has built his career on in TV and feature films like “Tombstone,” “The Shadow Riders” and “The Desperate Trail,” actor Sam Elliott, 62, is traveling a new road for the first time in his 40-year career.

In “Barnyard,” Elliott lends his voice to an animated character. His vessel, Ben the Cow, is the leader of the farm and looks to one day pass along his duties to his son Otis (voiced by King of Queens star Kevin James). The problem is that Otis would much rather goof around with the other animals than listen to his father and tend to his responsibilities like keeping the hen house safe from coyotes and other prowling predators.

Taking some time to speak with me, Elliott talked about working on his first animated film, his dream to move to an Oregon farm, and how interesting it is to be portraying a cow when he is also the spokesperson of the American Beef Council.

You are one of those few actors that have a very memorable voice. Personally, I would say you, R. Lee Ermey, James Earl Jones, Gilbert Godfrey are at the top. The difference between you and them, however, is that they have lent their voices to animated films in the past. Why has it taken you so long to do one of these animated features?

Because nobody ever asked me before. This was the first. So, I was happy to be there. Its not like I was running and hiding from them before. The opportunity just never presented itself before now.

What do you think it is about your voice that makes it so interesting?

I don’t know that it is. But I’ll tell you a story about my voice since you brought it up. When I moved to [Los Angeles] from Portland, Oregon, I was first working construction. Then I got a portfolio together and starting going to workshops at Columbia Pictures and started to look at how I could get in the door, some door, somewhere. I didn’t know anybody. So I took my portfolio and went and saw a few agents. A friend from the National Guard sent me to this friend of his who was an agent in this big agency. This was a big deal for me. So, I go in there and talk to this guy and show him my portfolio. Then he said there were two pieces of advice he could give to me. One was to forget it and go back to Portland and get a real life. The other one was, that if I was going to stay in this town the first thing I ought to do is take some voice and diction lessons and learn how to talk. But I’m glad I didn’t do it. [My voice] is real and its me. It isn’t something that is contrived or put on. All my family is from Texas. My mom and I talk the same. You end up talking like what you hear all the time.

So, do most people think you are originally from Texas?

Most people think I am from Texas. I’ve spent a lot of time in San Antone. I lived up in New Braunfels. My dad was from El Paso. I’ve got relatives still spread out all over Texas.

Have you spent any time on a farm?

I’ve spent quite a bit of time on either a farm or a ranch. I’ve got a ranch up in Oregon where my wife and I are trying to move to. Were trying to get out of California finally and get away from this humanity that has taken over this coast out here. But I know what the [farm] game is about. We’ve got animals at home. We’ve always had tons of cats and dogs and a couple of horses and chickens. We don’t have other people [tending] to them for us.  We know what its about from a reward standpoint and from a responsibility standpoint. Its a pretty enriching game.

Well, since “Barnyard” is the first time you have lent your voice to an animated film, did you use any experiences – maybe your narration work in “The Big Lebowski” – to prepare for this?

No. I’ll tell you, it’s very strange to play these animated characters. The most amazing thing is how long it takes to make these movies. I went in and thought it was going to be fun and I would get a chance to develop a character – something that sounded like a bull or a cow or whatever. But the director, Steve Oedekerk, said, “Nah man. I just want you to play it straight. Just say the words and play him like yourself.” I thought, that will make it easy. But it’s not that easy. It’s bizarre to be standing in a booth and playing a scene with somebody that isn’t there. You’re kind of doing a lopsided work.

Do you think that being the spokesperson for the American Beef Council had any affect in you getting the role of Ben the Cow? Is there any coincidence there?

Yeah. I’m sure it did. There’s a real interesting kind of a quandary in there. In one role, I’m playing a cow and in the other one, I’m selling the meat.

I came upon some past American Beef Council marketing campaigns. One of them was, John Wayne equals beef. Adolph Hitler equals radish. I guess being the spokesperson that really makes sense.

I think it does. It’s been good for me. I have a lot of affinity for the beef growers in this country. It’s this big business. In some ways I am representing the U.S. and their beef industry.