‘Winnie the Pooh’ Has Eeyore Stealing the Show

Winnie the Pooh 2011 movie poster

WRITER’S NOTE: This review was back in 2011 when the movie was released.

You know what? I was looking forward to this one more than “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2.” Granted, I saw the latter first, but anyone who knows me best will more than understand why I was in a hurry to watch this Disney animated film: I am a die-hard Eeyore fan! I got my first Eeyore plush toy before the start of the 5th grade, and I’ve lost track of how many I have collected since. My extraordinary niece told her friends I have over 3,000, but I beg to differ. To see him play such a pivotal part in “Winnie the Pooh” was a huge delight for me after seeing him get reduced to a mere supporting role in “Pooh’s Heffalump Movie.”

Oh yeah, I should talk about the rest of the film as well. That “silly old bear” once again headlines the proceedings as his grumbling tummy develops a mind of its own due to his endless addiction to honey. Sure enough, there are beehives nearby with a wealth of honey, but the bees are understandably protective of their export. Then there’s the case of Eeyore’s missing tail that has everyone giving him another which, to put it mildly, doesn’t exactly compare to the original. To cap it all off, this classic gang mistakenly believes Christopher Robin has been kidnapped by an evil monster known as the Backson (see the movie and you’ll understand).

For some reason, watching Pooh hurriedly pursuing the delicious and sticky substance known as honey kept reminding me of Darren Aronofsky’s “Requiem for a Dream” with its characters becoming increasingly desperate for whatever their minds craved more than their bodies, but that’s just me. I somehow doubt the animators at Walt Disney had any intention of making a G-rated movie to remind you of one of the most seriously disturbing films ever made.

“Winnie the Pooh” brings the 100 Acre Wood back to the traditional realm of hand drawn animation which is something of a rarity these days. While the characters might have looked fantastic with computer animation a la Pixar, doing things the old-fashioned way was the right choice. The “Winnie the Pooh” films and shorts have been long since relegated to the Disney channel and direct to DVD realm, and this brought about a drop in quality its most devoted films could not ignore. But seeing Pooh and company on the big screen is a terrific reminder of why we grew up loving these characters in the first place.

Jim Cummings once again provides the voice for Pooh and Tigger, and he captures the distinctive voices of each character perfectly. Travis Oates gets the innocent stuttering of Piglet down to perfection, and Craig Ferguson makes Owl as jolly as he is oblivious to his own pomposity. Rabbit, on the other hand, has always been the most anal of A.A. Milne’s characters, so I thank Tom Kenny for making him more likable and bearable than he typically is. As for Christopher Robin, Jack Boulter gives him a strong British accent even if he still sounds like a girl at times, much like the actor who voiced him in “Winnie the Pooh and a Day for Eeyore.”

Now back to the good part! Eeyore has been a great source of dry humor, and his brand of it is fully on display here. Watching him try on the tails others have given him should at the very least put a smile on your face even if it doesn’t on Eeyore’s. One of the movie’s most hilarious moments comes when Tigger trains him to be the second Tigger, leading to a montage I would love to say, but can’t quite get myself to believe, would put the one in “Rocky” to shame. Bud Luckey, who delighted us all with his great animated shorts on ” Sesame Street,” memorably voices Eeyore with all his gloominess and reduced expectations in life.

One great addition to this particular version of “Winnie the Pooh” is Zooey Deschanel. While she doesn’t appear in this movie, she does sing many of its songs including the classic opening track which introduces Christopher Robin’s friends. Her voice is lovely and it also has a whimsical quality which makes her contributions to this soundtrack all the more wonderful. While the songs by Robert and Kristin Anderson-Lopez aren’t as memorable as anything we have heard in “Beauty and the Beast” or “South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut,” they fit the material nicely without indulging in any cringe-inducing cheesiness.

By bringing Pooh and his friends back to basics, “Winnie the Pooh” really proves to be a wonderfully innocent and nostalgic stroll back to the stories our parents read to us at one time or another. It’s the perfect family movie to see this summer even over the more popular, and unfairly maligned, “Cars 2.” Not once does it boil things down to the lowest common denominator for any audience prepared to pay tickets to see it, and it is a rare piece of cinematic innocence in a world filled with loud explosions and seriously crappy 3D effects. While it is a mere 69 minutes long, there is more story to this than its running time suggests. For proof of this, be sure to sit through the end credits.

Now let’s get Eeyore’s name in the title of the next A.A. Milne cinematic extravaganza! Tigger and Piglet both had enough charisma to get a headliner’s status above Winnie the Pooh, so you can’t convince me Eeyore does not deserve the same respect. It’s not like Owl, Kanga or Roo could upstage him anyway. And regardless of what Tina Fey and Seth Meyers said on “Saturday Night Live,” Eeyore did not commit suicide. As to whether auto-erotic asphyxiation was involved, I have no comment.

* * * ½ out of * * * *

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23 Miles in the Frigid Los Angeles Wilderness

Ben Kenber after 23 miles 2012

FUNDRAISING UPDATE: Now I usually put this update at the end of my marathon training articles, but this one goes up at the front as my fundraising deadline is coming up very soon. The coaches have put the deadline at the end of February and, after some confusion, I have officially raised $761 for The Pablove Foundation. My goal is to raise $1,500, and I could really use your help. Please donate only what you can, and hopefully a miracle will take place and we can reach this goal before the clock strikes midnight on February 28th.

PLEASE CLICK HERE TO MAKE A TAX-DECUCTIBLE DONATION TO THE PABLOVE FOUNDATION.

Pablove Foundation logo

Last week had us Pablove Foundation runners doing a recovery run of 13 miles (you read that correctly), and four of those miles were run on the track at Burbank High School as Coach James wanted us do tempo runs in an effort to improve our individual paces per mile. I ran the first four laps around that track without taking a single walk break. I was on fire that day, and it showed as I crossed the finish line back at Griffith Park. Coach James and Coach Kerry were more impressed with me than usual as I wasn’t too far behind the other runners. Yes, I am improving!

This week had us doing the longest run of the marathon training season, 23 miles. We were also going to be running this insane number of miles during one of the coldest weeks in recent Los Angeles history. Although spring is just around the corner, temperatures have threatened to reach polar depths down here in Southern California, and I kid you not. For the first time in ages, I considered wearing a sweater on a daily basis, something which previously felt completely unnecessary. We have become so used to experiencing unseasonably warm weather all year round in this part of the Golden State, so this huge drop in temperature took us all by surprise. Heck, even recent transplants from states like Maine found themselves complaining about how cold it was, and the winters in Maine are brutal!

I arrived at Griffith Park about 10 minutes before our run was scheduled to begin. With a run like this, we usually start it at 6 a.m. in order to finish it before the temperature rises to a torturous level. However, since the forecast gave Saturday a high of only 64 degrees, the coaches had us starting at our usual time of 7 a.m. Either way, we all knew we wouldn’t be finishing this run until at least noon.

As you can guess, we were all shivering like never before as Coach James told us what to expect on this run. One fellow Pablove runner remarked, “As they say in Canada, it is currently one degree Celsius.” We only have so many layers of clothing on as we expect to shed some of them before we reach our midway point, so we paid the price for a few minutes before we begin our run to where we all wonder if frost would start forming on our clothes. Believe me, this has happened before.

Pablove Runners 2018 on Feb 24

Being the slowest runner on the Pablove team, I was the first to start, and I made sure to tell everyone “see you next week” as I had no doubt none of them would be around to see me cross the finish line. This run had us doing three loops: one inside Griffith Park which had us going up that godforsaken hill, another which had us returning on the treacherous, let alone ominous, road of Forest Lawn Drive, and another which took us through Glendale and Burbank. Eager to get off to a quick start, I may have started to run a little faster than I should have, but considering how frigid the weather was, can you blame me?

I mentioned in a previous article how I am the proud owner of two 160GB iPods, one of which is dedicated solely to film scores and soundtracks. This week, I brought the other to see how the music on it would assist on this run. As I made my way up the first of several inclines, I listened to Peter Gabriel’s “Shock the Monkey,” the song which made me consciously aware of who the former lead singer of Genesis is. The start of the song always sends a shiver down my spine as it reminds me of how freaked out I was by its accompanying music video when I first watched it at the tender age of 7. For years afterwards, I had to keep changing the channel whenever it appeared on MTV. I have no problem watching it today, and I have long since become a die-hard Peter Gabriel fan, but I never forgot how the video became the stuff of nightmares for me.

If I ever felt my energy waning at any point, I was sure to put on a faster paced song on like “Kiss of Life” or “The Rhythm of the Heat,” songs you experience more than listen to. Of course, I soon had to become aware of how fast I was running as the music got me super excited to my own detriment. We were supposed to be running at a conversational pace, and I got so caught up in the music to where this slipped my mind. Then again, what do you expect when I am taking in the extended version of Gabriel’s “Big Time” as I struggle to ascend a hill even Kate Bush never sang about?

Other songs which became instrumental in helping me included the Microbots trance dance mix of Erasure’s “Always,” Everclear’s “Everything to Everyone” (something I tried too hard to be when I was a kid), The Power Station’s cover of “Get it On (Bang a Gong),” and Franz Ferdinand’s “Do You Want To” among others. Actually, this run also helped to remind me of just how much I loved listening to Phil Collins’ “12” Ers” album as it featured very kinetic remixes of his songs “Sussudio” and “Who Said I Would.” Those songs furthered my determination to finish these 23 miles sooner than later. Of course, I once again found myself running a little faster than I should have, and my walk breaks eventually began to last longer than one minute.

Even as the sun rose in the sky, we still had a strong breeze to work with as we pounded the pavement. It made me realize something, this is the kind of weather we live to run in during the LA Marathon. It’s certainly a lot more fun running in these temperatures than it is in 80 plus degree heat. Sadly, this weather will probably not be around on marathon day, so we should enjoy it while it lasts. Still, hopefully it will very overcast as wevget closer to Santa Monica.

Lays Potato Chips

Coaches James and Kerry met up with us along the route to make sure we had all the nutrition we needed. I had plenty of energy gels on me, but their helpings of cookies and bananas were especially handy as the potassium made a huge difference. The other thing which really helped were the bags of Lays potato chips. They were the normal, plain kind, but that didn’t matter because those chips still had all the salt our bodies needed to absorb the water and electrolyte drinks we couldn’t stop drinking throughout.

Salt was the one thing I needed to remember to take a lot of. Our bodies can expel it fairly quickly to where you can feel it coming out of your face. I remember running 23 miles on my own a few years back and later getting seriously dehydrated to where I couldn’t keep anything down. My dad came by a day or two later, and even he saw how I was moving around town as if I were an extra in George Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead.” As a result, I had to go to urgent care at Kaiser Permanente where I got an IV of fluids. The truth is, I didn’t consume enough salt during the run, and my body was aching for sodium among other things…

Well, there was also the case of me celebrating too soon with an endless number of Jack and Cokes a few hours after I finished. As a result, I will never consume alcohol on the day of a run with this magnitude. Simply put, it isn’t worth the trouble.

tylenol-extra-strength-500-mg-100-caplets-3.gif

Towards the last half of the run, I could not escape the soreness which was enveloping my body. Those joints of mine can only take so much, but even then, I was surprised I was suffering as it felt like I handled the first part of the run much better than I anticipated. But as I went on, I decided to take one extra strength Tylenol caplet to ease the pain. I figured I would take another later on, but one seemed to be sufficient. Believe it or not, I don’t use much Tylenol or any equivalent kind of medication these days. This is probably because I almost got completely scared off of taking any kind of pain medication after witnessing the cinematic shock therapy which was Darren Aronofsky’s “Requiem for a Dream.” If you know someone who is considering experimenting with drugs, make sure they check it out.

My iPod threatened to shut down on my early on as I was listening to “Get it On (Bang a Gong).” The music suddenly stopped, and the screen said to hook it up to a power source. I was pissed because music had suddenly become a valuable tool during these training runs, and to be without it was infuriating. Fortunately, my iPod came to its senses and realized it had more power than it was letting on. Still, it decided it didn’t have enough juice to last me on the last three miles, and this was just as I began listening to the Revolting Cocks’ cover of Rod Stewart’s “Do You Think I’m Sexy.” Damn, and I hadn’t listened to that version in a long time!

In the past years when I trained with Team to End AIDS, the 23-mile run, which is still called the “celebration run,” we were greeted at the finish line with tremendous fanfare as the T2EA staff was there to cheer us on, and we were greeted with a feast of sandwiches to gorge on. This year, we did not have such a finish as Coach Kerry doesn’t have the same staff he used to, but this was okay because the victory of completion was something we need to acknowledge within us instead of just from others. We need to appreciate our accomplishments more than others do because, otherwise, what’s the point of running all these miles?

Following this, I drove home and crashed in bed for several hours. Despite having done this same run the last seven years, my body still takes a toll to where I can’t get myself to do much of anything else for the rest of the day. I did celebrate by having a cheeseburger at Five Guys in the evening, but my body felt better lying down on a mattress more than anything else.

Here’s to all the Pablove runners for running all 23 miles whether it was at Griffith Park on Saturday morning or elsewhere. Congratulations. Now if you will excuse me, I will be taking a much-needed break until Tuesday when I will resume my maintenance runs. I know my knees will appreciate this.

HERE ARE SOME OF THE OTHER SONGS I LISTENED TO ON THIS 23 MILE RUN.

‘mother!’ Provides Audiences with a Vicious Roller Coaster Ride into Madness

mother! movie poster

After watching Darren Aronofsky’s “mother!” at Arclight Cinemas in Hollywood, a special behind the scenes featurette was shown where the filmmaker explained how he wanted to make a movie which would generate different reactions from its audience to where various interpretations could be formed over what they witnessed. Aronofsky has succeeded in doing exactly that as “mother!” does not have him spelling anything out for anyone, perhaps not even for the cast either. Maybe he does have an explanation for all the craziness which ensues in this, one of the freakiest psychological thrillers in some time, but he’s not about to let on what it is, and I am perfectly fine with that as to explain anything about the plot would dilute its power instantly.

The experience of seeing “mother!” was a lot like watching Lars Von Trier’s “Antichrist” as both movies feature a married couple who are nameless and staying in a secluded country home in the woods. Like “Antichrist,” “mother!” has polarized critics and audiences as many are desperate to discover what its director was attempting to accomplish here. The best advice I can give you is to approach Aronofsky’s film by leaving any and expectations you have for it at the door. It has been advertised as an homage to “Rosemary’s Baby,” but the only thing it has in common with Polanski’s classic is it’s also not a movie for new or expectant parents.

We meet Mother (Jennifer Lawrence) on a beautiful and sunny morning as she wakes up in the home she shares with Him (Javier Bardem), a well-regarded poet who is currently suffering from a frustrating bout of writer’s block. The two of them lead a peaceful existence in a home which has been lovingly restored after suffering much damage, but this existence is soon interrupted by an unexpected visitor (played by Ed Harris), an orthopedic surgeon who Him welcomes into their home even though Mother is perturbed that he would welcome a complete stranger in ever so easily.

Things become even more complicated when the unexpected visitor’s wife (played by Michelle Pfeiffer) comes by and becomes infatuated with knowing more about Mother and why she and her husband have no children of their own. Granted, this makes Lawrence’s character’s name of Mother hypocritical as she is not a mother at the movie’s start, but many surprises are in store for the characters and the audience as “mother!” takes a number of twists and turns you cannot see coming.

Revealing more about what happens would be detrimental as “mother!” is best viewed with little knowledge about it. Indeed, promoting this movie must have been a nightmare for Paramount Pictures as you can only say so much about it before you spoil everything. Then again, can you spoil this movie for others? Aronofsky has made something here which cannot be easily explained, but while this will baffle and infuriate many who sit through, it should enthrall those who are in the mood for something cinematically adventurous and a movie which forces you to think about what you just saw.

What I can tell you is things reach a frenzied fever pitch as “mother!” barrels towards a climax which comes close to equaling the frenzy of Ellen Burstyn being terrorized by her refrigerator in “Requiem for a Dream.” Aronofsky has said he applied “dream-logic” to “mother!,” and it certainly helps to know this going in as events keeping going by at a rapid pace to where you can’t help but feel like you are in a nightmare or a dream you are desperate to control, but can’t. It’s like being a car when the brakes have failed you, and the emergency brake ultimately doesn’t work either. You just keep getting thrust into a hellish realm as Lawrence and Bardem become trapped in their once peaceful home as the woods it is located in offers no escape. In fact, it all reminded me of what Charlotte Gainsbourg said in “Antichrist” at one point, “Nature is Satan’s church.” Well, Satan looks to be having even more fun here.

There are said to be a lot of biblical allegories to be discovered here, but the only one I could see was the reference to Cain and Abel as two brothers fight one another bitterly over an inheritance which benefits one more than the other. I am already very eager to see “mother!” as seeing it once is not enough to uncover all which Aronofsky wants us to discover. Now that I have experience this motion picture on an emotionally visceral level, I want to experience in a different way even though Aronofsky has warned us not to analyze “mother!” too deeply.

Jennifer Lawrence remains as luminous an actress as ever, and she looks to be put through the emotional wringer here as her character descends into a realm of inescapable madness. It turns out she even got so into character on set to where she was constantly hyperventilating and even cracked a rib, so there’s no doubt about dedication to playing a role. At this point, I am convinced Lawrence can play any role given to her, and she has this ageless quality to her appearance which matches her up perfectly with actors who are several years older.

Lawrence also shares a number of almost gleefully unsettling scenes opposite Michelle Pfeiffer, an actress we don’t see near enough of these days. As these two circle each other like cats ready to hiss at one another while guarding their precious territory, we are reminded of how brilliant Pfeiffer can be when given material which piques her interest.

As for Javier Bardem and Ed Harris, these are two actors you can never ever go wrong with, and they infuse “mother!” with a passion for acting they have never lost sight of since the start of their careers. Bardem, in particular, gives his character a loving presence as well as an ominous one. The latter is especially the case in a scene where he stares down Lawrence, and it’s a stare which lasts for what feels like an eternity and brings back memories of his Oscar-winning role as Anton Chigurh in “No Country for Old Men.” I kept waiting for him to explode as Bardem sits like a wild animal waiting to strike, and I was desperate for Lawrence not to let her guard down while in front of him.

Aronofsky continues to employ many of his regular colleagues to great effect like cinematographer Matthew Libatique, but what’s surprising is this movie’s lack of a music score. Instead of employing his longtime composer Clint Mansell, Aronofsky instead hired Johann Johannsson to come up with ominous musical themes. However, upon viewing an edit of “mother!,” they both agreed this movie didn’t need a score. It says a lot about “mother!” that it needs no music score to aid in the movie’s mission to generate almost unbearable tension. Few other filmmakers could get away with such a feat, but the intense sound design which, when viewed in the right theater, surrounds you to where you feel every bit as trapped as Lawrence is. As her predicament becomes more and more of a sonic assault, we feel her character’s agitation all too much.

In retrospect, I was tickled to death at the reactions the audience I saw “mother!” had. Several people laughed either out of derision or just plain nervousness as things went from a state of peacefulness to complete Armageddon, and others complained how this scene or another contained the only elements which made the least amount of sense to them. As I walked out of the theater, others said they couldn’t understand why people were laughing at certain moments. Many of my movie friends have said this movie is likely to end up on the lists of both the best and the worst films of 2017, and I couldn’t agree more. You will either love this motion picture, or you will hate it with a passion.

As for myself, I loved the visceral roller coaster ride “mother!” took me on. I never caught myself laughing much at what went on as I was completely gripped in Aronofsky’s vise as he continued to tighten the grip he had on me, and I was thrilled at the levels of “Requiem for a Dream” intensity he was able to generate with this one. Many will say he is simply out to torture his audience, but why can’t we have a torturous cinematic experience every once in a while, or at least one which is torturous in a good way? I show no hesitation in calling “mother!” one of the best movies I have seen so far in 2017 as it provided me with something incredibly unique in a time where the cinematic landscape is overfilled with superheroes.

Yes, the market research firm CinemaScore has given “mother!” an average grade of an F, a rare grade for movie to get from them. Then again, Steven Soderbergh’s “Solaris,” William Friedkin’s “Bug” and Richard Kelly’s “The Box” also received the same grade, and those movies are much better than their reputations suggest. And keep in mind, this is the same firm which gave an A+ to Dinesh D’Souza’s infinitely patriotic but poorly made, not to mention boring, documentary “America: Imagine the World Without Her,” so there’s no accounting for taste.

Seriously, I haven’t had this much fun taking in an audience’s reaction to a motion picture since “The Human Centipede 2.” Of course, “mother!” is much, much better than that one. When the exclamation mark appears a couple of seconds after the title does and then sticks around once the title disappears, you should know you are in for something completely different.

* * * * out of * * * *

Tracy Letts Looks Back on ‘Bug’ at New Beverly Cinema

Tracy Letts photo

New Beverly Cinema concluded their month long tribute to Oscar winning filmmaker William Friedkin with a double feature of “Bug” and “Killer Joe,” movies which allowed him to escape the pressures of big budget filmmaking by going the indie route. Both were based on plays written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tracy Letts who also adapted them to the big screen, and he was the guest of honor at the New Beverly for this final night of Friedkin. Following “Bug,” he participated in a Q&A with Brian J. Quinn, host of the Grindhouse Film Festival. Quinn’s first question was how Letts first came up with “Bug,” and Letts took us back in time to when the play was first conceived and of how Michael Shannon was involved.

Bug movie poster

“Where it came from is what I’m puzzling about myself right now,” Letts said. “I had written ‘Killer Joe’ in 91, it got produced in 93, and that production wound up going to the UK. The Gate Theatre in Notting Hill (where it was put up) asked us for another show. The group for ‘Killer Joe’ were interested in working again, so I wrote quickly and I wrote the role of Peter for Mike (Shannon). Mike had played Chris in my production of ‘Killer Joe’ and was such a great actor. We took it to the Gate Theatre and the play wasn’t worked out. It took a long time and a lot of productions for me to work out some of the problems with it, but Mike played Peter not only in the London production but in the subsequent production in Chicago where I continued to work on it. And then the play went to the Barrow Street Theatre in New York in 2005, and Mike had been with the play for a number of years at that point.”

“Bill Friedkin saw the play in New York and he called me out of the blue,” Letts continued. “I had never met him or spoken to him and I thought it was a prank actually, but he had seen the show. He actually said, ‘I don’t actually think this is a movie. I just wanted to tell you that I am a fan of your writing and I think it’s great.’ And he called the next day and said, ‘Maybe it is a movie. Why don’t you come out here to LA and talk to me’ So I flew to Los Angeles and I met Bill at his home for the first time. He said, ‘I think it is a film. The more I think about it, it seems very cinematic to me.’ I said I would love to work with Bill Friedkin but it’s a claustrophobic piece. It doesn’t really make a lot of sense to open it up and have these disturbed people out in the world. And he said, ‘First, do no harm. I love the play and I have a way to make the play cinematic, so let’s work on the screenplay.’ And we did.”

Bug Michael Shannon and his teeth

Now while Shannon is well known these days for his work in movies like “99 Homes” and “Man of Steel,” he still had yet to make his big cinematic breakthrough. That would come a few years later in Sam Mendes’ “Revolutionary Road” which earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor, but there was no forgetting who he was after watching “Bug.” Of course, getting the actor cast in the movie was a challenge, but Letts explained how Friedkin championed for him.

“Billy fought really hard for him,” Letts said. “The people who were financing the film had no interest in using Mike, but Billy just insisted. He had seen Mike do the play live, he knew how powerful Mike was in the role, and he knew the role was written for Mike. And Billy actually had a lot of experience casting a lot of unknowns in movies: William L. Petersen in ‘To Live and Die in LA’ was his first big break, Linda Blair and Jason Miller in ‘The Exorcist.” I’m really glad he did (fight for Mike) because among the many pleasures of the film is the fact that Mike’s extraordinary stage performance was preserved on film. The freak out scene where he’s flopping and having a seizure on the bed, he used to do that on stage eight times a week.”

“Bug” was not a big hit when it arrived in movie theaters back in 2007. Part of this was due to competition from summer blockbusters, but it was also the result of what Letts called a terrible marketing campaign. While “Bug” looks like a horror movie, it is at its heart a psychological thriller and a character study. Still, studio executives in their infinite wisdom were convinced they knew what they were doing.

“Lionsgate decided that they were going to do a big opening and they were gonna just try and lure the kids into it like it was ‘Saw’ or ‘Hostel,’” Letts said. “They opened us up on 1,600 screens and they opened it in the summer opposite ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End’ on Memorial Day weekend. Billy had begged them not to do this. We said please don’t open this movie on 1,600 screens. We said this was a terrible mistake; we should open it small and let it build its audience. But they just insisted and ran these terrible trailers on TV with the announcer going, ‘They live in your blood. They feed on your brain.’ So the horror movie kids came in and they hated it, and the people who would have enjoyed the movie didn’t come because they thought it wasn’t their cup of tea. So it just died a terrible death unfortunately.”

Letts also talked about Friedkin and of how he makes a movie. Because this was a low budget feature, its shooting schedule was very short and Friedkin was in no position to be like Stanley Kubrick or David Fincher and do 70 takes of the same scene. Letts also took the time to demystify Friedkin’s reputation.

“Billy shoots quick,” Letts said of Friedkin. “He starts work early in the morning at four o’clock, he’s done and goes home. He brags about the fact that he only shoots one take. That’s not quite true. He will shoot something else if light falls into the shot. Mike used to ask him for another take and Billy said, ‘What, you got stock in Eastman Kodak?’”

Bug Ashley Judd

“Bug” proved to be an emotionally raw cinematic experience and is almost as unnerving as Darren Aronofsky’s “Requiem for a Dream.” Both Shannon and Ashley Judd give some of their best performances ever, and Friedkin succeeds in stretching this play beyond its claustrophobic staging to give us something which slams us back into our seats and never lets us go for a second. It was a real treat for the New Beverly audience to have Tracy Letts come down and talk with us. In his heart he still feels like a Chicago theatre guy more than anything else, but along with Friedkin he made a pair of movies which fearlessly went against what was mainstream, and we need movies to go against the grain every once in a while.

Bug movie poster 2

Copyright Ben Kenber 2016.

 

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