Category Archives: Movies

Donald Sutherland! Donald Sutherland!

Two Hundred plus movies! How can I pick a favorite?

Breaking from the New York Times:

By Clyde Haberman

June 20, 2024Updated 3:23 p.m. ET

Donald Sutherland, whose ability to both charm and unsettle, both reassure and repulse, was amply displayed in scores of film roles as diverse as a laid-back battlefield surgeon in “M*A*S*H,” a ruthless Nazi spy in “Eye of the Needle,” a soulful father in “Ordinary People” and a strutting fascist in “1900,” died on Thursday in Miami. He was 88.

His son Kiefer Sutherland, the actor, announced the death on social media. CAA, the talent agency that represented Mr. Sutherland, said he had died in a hospital after an unspecified “long illness.” He had a home in Miami.

With his long face, droopy eyes, protruding ears and wolfish smile, the 6-foot-4 Mr. Sutherland was never anyone’s idea of a movie heartthrob. He often recalled that while growing up in eastern Canada, he once asked his mother if he was good-looking, only to be told, “No, but your face has a lot of character.” He recounted how he was once rejected for a film role by a producer who said: “This part calls for a guy-next-door type. You don’t look like you’ve lived next door to anyone.”

Yet across six decades, starting in the early 1960s, he appeared in nearly 200 films and television shows — some years he was in as many as half a dozen movies. “Klute,” “Six Degrees of Separation” and a 1978 remake of “The Invasion of the Body Snatchers” were just a few of his other showcases.

And he continued to work well into his last years, becoming familiar to younger audiences through roles in multiple installments of “The Hunger Games” franchise, alongside Brad Pitt in the space drama “Ad Astra” (2019) and as the title character in the Stephen King-inspired horror film “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone” (2022).

Mr. Sutherland’s chameleonlike ability to be endearing in one role, menacing in another and just plain odd in yet a third appealed to directors, among them Federico Fellini, Robert Altman, Bernardo Bertolucci and Oliver Stone. . . .

 

In “Klute” (1971), another early triumph, Mr. Sutherland was a small-town policeman crossing paths with a big-city call girl played by Jane Fonda. He and Ms. Fonda then began an affair that lasted three years; their relationship dovetailed with his most conspicuous burst of political activism, which matched hers.

Image

A woman rests her head on the chest of a man as they lie in bed.
Mr. Sutherland as a police officer and Jane Fonda as a call girl in “Klute” (1971). Offscreen, they had an affair that lasted three years.Credit…Warner Bros., via Everett Collection

In 1971, he joined Ms. Fonda and other actors in a comedy troupe called F.T.A. that toured military towns, performing satirical sketches infused unmistakably with an anti-Vietnam War spirit. The group’s initials stood for Free the Army, though soldiers recognized a far less dainty meaning.

The One That Didn’t Get Away– FTA, Sutherland’s Vietnam era antiwar documentary with Jane Fonda and a vigorous, sharp-witted troupe, made a splash, but was gone in a flash.

Although Mr. Sutherland’s politics leaned leftward, he told Playboy: “I didn’t like doing anything political within the United States because I am, after all, Canadian.” But, he added, “there was a huge Canadian participation in the war, and so I felt, on this, I had a right.”

So  maybe I can pick a favorite film which was the one that very few people ever got to see:  FTA which is short for several other “memes,” from “Fun, Travel & Adventure,” an actual  recruiter’s slogan, to a protester’s “Free The Army,” to a disgruntled grunt soldier’s curse “F*ck The Army.”  The film of the title, according to Wikipedia,

“was released in July 1972, “within days of Fonda’s infamous visit to Hanoi” and seems to have suffered from the political fallout of Fonda’s travels. The film “was in theatres barely a week before it was pulled from circulation by its distributor, American International Pictures.” Even more, “[m]ost copies were destroyed”, which seems to indicate an attempt to prevent any future for the film. Many have suspected the film’s disappearance “was the result of government intervention.” According to Parker, the film’s director, “the film disappeared after Sam Arkoff, head of AIP, received a call from the White House.” David Zeiger, who has been involved in resurrecting the original film, has been quoted as saying he believes Parker. “There’s no proof, but I can’t think of another reasonable explanation for Sam Arkoff, a man who knew how to wring every penny out of a film, yanking one starring Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland from theaters at a big loss (and, apparently, destroying all of the prints, since none were ever found).”

The bravado of the top line of the mobie poster “The Show the Pentagon Couldn’t Stop “ is exaggerated: the troupe did did perform at several big bases to big applause from disgruntled, war-weary troops; but their tour was stopped before it was completed, and the movie vanished.

I’m on the government suppression side of this argument: I watched FTA during the Iraq war, on a rare, almost samizdat VHS tape, and the roaringly supportive reception Sutherland and Jane Fonda got from the soldiers they performed for was still  amazing; it must have driven the Pentagon brass and the Nixon White House bonkers. (Even the summary of the film in the Wikipedia entry makes exciting and subversive reading  more than 50 years later.)

Anyway, Sutherland and Fonda’s careers survived this flap, and he was a pleasure to watch almost every time. Two hundred movies, with top directors like Robert Altman to hacks to keep busy, that was quite a life, and quite a record.

 

After the Sudden Storm: Minding the Light Again!

About 10:30 Wednesday night, I was ready to pack it in: tired and frazzled from a day spent largely looking for chargers to recharge chargers for phone & Ipad, and then charging the devices while circling in the Fair Wendy’s air-conditioned EV, and buying drippy bags of ice from a darkened but open vape shop for the room temperature fridge/freezer.

I turned off the MSNBC audio feed my phone still had and was starting the push up out of the recliner when — voilá!

Continue reading After the Sudden Storm: Minding the Light Again!

Quotes of the Day: Chickens, Boomers & the Python, and an Astronomer who Sees the End of Our Universe

Quotes (Today, all from The Washington Post)

On Backyard chickens:

“Which reminds me: Everything imaginable will try to eat your chickens. Depending on where you live, you’ll have to protect your flock from hawks, raccoons, weasels, coyotes, wolves, dogs, foxes and even hungry bears. . . . Continue reading Quotes of the Day: Chickens, Boomers & the Python, and an Astronomer who Sees the End of Our Universe

Viola Davis Stars in new film, “The Woman King”

AP News: ‘Woman King,’ Viola Davis and the culmination of a struggle

TORONTO (AP) — When Viola Davis, sculpted and hardened from months of training, first stood in the full garb of the Agojie warrior women, with her bare feet in the African sand, it was the culmination of not just the yearslong push to make “The Woman King,” but of a lifelong battle.

“It was sort of metaphoric to not just everything I had done to prepare for this role but everything that I had done as a Black woman to prepare for this moment,” Davis says. “Which is to be a warrior.”

“The Woman King,” which opens in theaters Friday, is a $50 million action epic, set in 1820s West Africa, about the allfemale army of the Kingdom of Dahomey. Made largely by women and featuring an almost completely Black cast, it’s powerfully unlike anything Hollywood has ever produced. And just as much as “The Woman King” dramatizes the fierce fighting of the Agojie, the film represents its own struggle.

“Fighting for actors. Fighting for the director. You have to fight for the writer,” Davis, also a producer, said in an interview at the Toronto International Film Festival. “Years and years and years go by and you’re still fighting. You’re fighting for the budget. You’re fighting for even the commercial aspects of the story. You’re fighting for your hair. Fight. Fight. Fight.”

“Whenever you’re doing anything new, it requires the warrior spirit,” says Davis. “What I feel now is: It was worth it.”

“The Woman King,” directed by Gina PrinceBythewood (“The Old Guard, “Love & Basketball”), began as an idea seven years ago, after a trip to Africa by Maria Bello, the producer and actor. Enamored by the history of the Agojie, she brought the concept to producer Cathy Schulman, the producer of the Oscarwinning “Crash and the former head of Women in Film.

Schulman knew the film could be a potent portrait of female strength, but she didn’t anticipate that, following the overturning of Roe v. Wade, it might serve as a rallying cry at a time when many consider women’s rights under siege.

“There couldn’t be a more important time for a movie about female courage, about sisterhood, about the complexity of the female experience, not to mention the physicality of our bodies,” Schulman says.

Viola Davis brought her empowering drama The Woman King to the Toronto International Film Festival for the films world premiere. Davis said the role of an African warrior named Nanisca “feels like my coming out party.” (Sept. 11)

But the producers and Davis, who was attached early on, found it difficult to convince executives and financiers to bankroll “The Woman King” at a budget large enough to provide it the scale it deserved.

“‘Braveheart,’ ‘Gladiator,’ ‘Last of the Mohicans.’ I love those movies,” says PrinceBythewood. “Now, here was our chance to tell our story in this genre.”

“The Woman King,” a rousing emotional wallop that seamlessly fuses interior drama with action spectacle, was met with universal acclaim at its Toronto premiere as a crowdpleaser of another kind. But the Hollywood calculus for what might appeal to a broad audience has traditionally really meant “Will white people watch it?”

“Black people did not have to love ‘Thelma & Louise’ for ‘Thelma & Louise’ to get made,” says Davis. “White people have to love ‘The Woman King’ for ‘The Woman King’ to get made — according to Hollywood.”

A pivotal moment came when “Black Panther” was released. Ryan Coogler’s film featured a fictionalization of the Agojie, the Dora Milaje, and its massive worldwide boxoffice ($1.3 billion) was a wakeup call to the industry.

“We would not have been able to do ‘Woman King’ without ‘Black Panther,’ Davis says. “I’m eternally grateful to ‘Black Panther.’

To ready for the shoot in South Africa, Davis and fellow cast members Thuso Mbedu, Lashana Lynch and Sheila Atim underwent a grueling monthslong regimen of weight lifting and fight training. The actors later performed their own stunts in the film. Davis, who at 57 refers to herself as “the O.G. warrior” among her younger castmates, says she never felt prouder of her body. “Not just for the way that it looked but for the way it serviced me.”

Lynch, the British actor of “No Time to Die,” would later be astonished watching herself in the film.

“I find it hard to believe that that was really me,” says Lynch. “It really taught me a lot about just what women come with. We have so much to be able to push through pain and birth children and push against the world’s pressures.

“The Woman King,” penned by Dana Stevens, shot by Polly Morgan and edited by Terilyn Shropshir, was crewed by PrinceBythewood with women and people of color in most departmenthead positions.

“It breathes such a more pleasant set,” says Schulman. “Lack of drama. More attitude of the work first. Less hierarchy. I just haven’t seen any job a woman can’t do. That was all a fallacy.”

Lynch, visibly moved by her experience making “Woman King, for the first time witnessed an Africaset action drama staged outside of the white male gaze.

“‘The Woman King’ will be its own blueprint that I hope filmmakers and heads of studios can take as an example,” Lynch says.

Some have been skeptical of how “The Woman King” tackles history. Last month, the 1619 Project author Nikole HannahJones wrote on Twitter that “it will be interesting to see how a movie that seems to glorify the allfemale military unit of the Dahomey deals with the fact that this kingdom derived its wealth from capturing Africans for the transAtlantic slave trade.”

The Agojie were indeed a brutal and bloodthirsty army that participated in slave raids. “The Woman King,” like most historical epics, takes some artistic license. But the slave trade is a central component to its narrative. Schulman says the 1820s were chosen from the 16001904 history of the Dahomey kingdom specifically for the backdrop of conflict with the mightier Oyo empire, along with mounting pressure from European colonizers for captives.

“The Woman King” is hoping to make history of its own by blazing a new path for the film industry. The Sony Pictures release will hope to enliven movie theaters after a prolonged latesummer lull at the box office.

“I feel that the film is eventized,” says Schulman. “My anticipation is that we’re ready for this film. We just don’t know how ready we truly are.”

Davis, for her part, feels like she’s been ready all her life. She has taken to calling “The Woman King” her “magnum opus” because her production company produced it, because she fought so hard for it.

“This was a hardwon battle,” says Davis. “And I won it. I feel like I won the battle.”

It’s an accomplishment that sends Davis back to her initial dreams of show business as a young girl growing up poor in Rhode Island. Before encountering the reality of the film industry, her movie dreams were limitless.

“This movie affirms that it’s possible,” says Davis. “That there are no limitations to my dreams. That, actually, I was right.”