For my birthday I took myself out to see RED last night, and it was great. I haven’t read the comic, but you can see Warren Ellis’ fingerprints all over it. I’m a sucker for movies about old farts anyway, but RED is a terrifically entertaining amalgam of Sneakers+Ronin+Grumpy Old Men.

And let me just state, categorically, that at 65 Helen Mirren is still just about the goddamned sexiest thing I’ve ever seen in a movie, and I would bang the doors off that woman in a heartbeat.

I also had the treat of sitting through the worst trailer I have seen for a movie since Next of Kin. If you haven’t seen the trailer for Drive Angry, you owe it to yourself. It is absolutely ridiculous, and proves yet again Nicolas Cage’s insatiable urge to embarrass himself. This is the first trailer I’ve ever seen worthy of its own Rifftrax.

If the movie is half as bad as the trailer, it should be The Room of car/driver from Hell movies (and, yes, there’s a long precedent of precisely that; The Car, Christine, The Wraith… shall I continue?)

This morning I looked at the news and discovered that Dino De Laurentiis had died on my birthday. Despite being 5’ 4”, Dino was a giant in the film industry, and was a huge influence on my childhood. He was one of the last old-school independent producers. He never directed a film, and probably never wanted to, but he was the driving force behind hundreds.

Some – la Strada, Serpico, Ragtime – are brilliant films, true classics. Some – Maximum Overdrive, Red Sonja, Lipstick, place easily among the worst movies ever inflicted on an audience.

Many of the movies De Laurentiis produced are cultural icons, pieces of gaudy fluff that have become cool or camp or kitsch because of their shamelessness or over-the-top style. Movies like Danger: Diabolik, Barbarella, Flash Gordon, Dune or Mandingo. I personally dislike every one of these films, but each has its following.

Like many Italian filmmakers, De Laurentiis didn’t distinguish between the pomp and the circumstance. All art was opera, and all stories were to be told on the grandest, loudest, most gaudy scale possible. Every painting deserved a bigger canvas. If De Laurentiis had been a jacket, he would have been made from red velvet and gold lamé.

For me, De Laurentiis was Conan the Barbarian, Death Wish, The Shootist (the first time I cried in a movie), Three Days of the Condor, and his awful remake of King Kong that I watched in awe and disappointment at the age of 8 in the biggest theater in Phoenix.

Tycoon, shlockmeister, showman and crook, Dino De Laurentiis was a bastion of Golden-Age Hollywood bombast and we’ll never see his like again.

One Response to Spectacle

  • Honey West says:

    very true about Dino, one of the greats. I suppose to a new generation it’s all about his vapid relative Giadda or whatever her name is and that horribly boring cooking show ahe has.

    All the Golden Agers are leaving us to be replaced with…….drek. But at least they live on in our hearts and souls. btw Happy Birthday! :)

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