Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Blogosphere Multiplex: Kim Morgan, Sunset Gun

It was high time to have another writer-to-writer chat. There are days in which Kim Morgan wants to be Tuesday Weld. There are days in which I want to be Kim Morgan. Her fine movie prose can be found at Sunset Gun and at MSN's Movie Filter and you may have even seen her on your television sitting in for Roger Ebert once on Ebert & Roeper. Chase any of the links in this article to some of her pieces. We're jumping right in since Kim has a lot to say about cinephilia, actress worship, classic films --I know my rental queue is already reordered after speaking to her....

10+ Questions with Kim Morgan of Sunset Gun

Nathaniel: How often do you go to the movies and/or watch at home?

Kim: If I'm out of a shut-in spell, I go to the movies about once a week. If there's a great film series going on or screenings I have to attend, more. As for in home viewing...I think (of late anyway, I've been watching movies like crazy) I average three movies a day, sometimes four. If I get anything that says "Film Noir Box Set" or "Women in Peril" I'm in trouble. And I always re-watch a movie I’ve seen a million times before I go to sleep. I go through phases. I used to watch Marnie constantly. And All the President's Men. And then I went through this They Shoot Horses, Don't They? obsession. Baby Doll was another. I'd wake up with Karl Malden screaming "Baby Dooolll" in a continual brain loop. I think that's slightly healthier than Gig Young's depressing, mocking "Yowza, yowza, yowza."

Nathaniel: I can't fall asleep if a movie is on myself (i need pitch black and silence... so fussy) but i envy you. ... well, not the Gig Young or Karl Malden hauntings.

Kim: I recently spent time in the desert and became reacquainted with darkness, silence and deep sleep so I really should change my habits. But then I live right off Hollywood Blvd. so it's never exactly quiet.

Nathaniel: Do you dream about movies too?

Kim: Unless the movie is bleeding into my sleep, I don't think I've ever had a dream about a specific movie. But since I always take a movie to bed, I'm not so sure. Maybe I'm never getting proper REM sleep. I have had two dreams about Gene Hackman though, those were good dreams. I wish John Garfield would find his way into my slumber.

Nathaniel: When and how did you first discover your cinephilia?

Kim: In terms of cinephelia, probably when I was seven-years-old and saw High Sierra on TV. I had to see every Humphrey Bogart movie after that. I also kept a journal listing actors, directors and movies (old and current) I liked. Oh god, and when I saw Rebel Without
a Cause at a revival showing, not only was I knocked out by seeing all those colors and angles and chicken races on the big screen but I had to find that red jacket James Dean wore. I wore that red coat all through middle school. I wish I still had that jacket.

Nathaniel: I think a lot of movie obsessives wait patiently (or im) for movies that remind them of those initial heady all enveloping thrills. Any recent movies or movie objects trip your switch in this way?

Kim: Whenever I see a movie I love on the big screen for the first time, it’s incredibly thrilling. Like when I saw Baby Face at UCLA a few years back or Cisco Pike at the American Cinemateque or nearly everything at the Noir Fest (The Crimson Kimono and Pickup on South
Street writ large? Watching close-ups the way Samuel Fuller intended? Richard Widmark and Jean Peters’ faces when Widmark’s lifting that microfilm from her purse? Chills). When I first saw Vertigo in re-release – I was in a state of total bliss. I wanted to pull a Mia Farrow Purple Rose of Cairo and step into the screen (though I don’t know if I’d want Jimmy Stewart following me outside and telling me how to do my hair. Oh, who am I kidding? Of course I’d want Jimmy Stewart following me around and dressing me in crisp grey suits).

As per current films, I was nutty over I Heart Huckabees (if that counts as current). I went to that movie over and over and over again. It wasn’t just that it was brilliant, or that it merged some of my favorite things in the world: perfectly timed screwball comedy, existential philosophy and Lily Tomlin, but it was gorgeously filmed and scored in this bittersweet, off kilter way that got me in all these mysterious places. Zodiac, Bug and The Darjeeling Limited were also on that level. And I want that train car in Darjeeling. I’ve taken two cross country train trips this year in a sleeper car but to have a car that detailed and that beautiful, well, is it even possible? What other movie items have I recently coveted? More from Darjeeling, I want Adrien Brody’s sunglasses. I want the Dodge Charger from Death Proof. And I want any dinner Samuel Jackson cooks for Christina Ricci in Black Snake Moan.

Nathaniel: Hallelujah and amen. Listening to you I felt like I was in a revival tent just then. I believe! ...in the cinema.

Any thoughts on why it's such a challenge to get the industry or the public or even young film fans more interested in the classics? Why do you suppose film culture is so narrowly focused on the now?

Kim: Actually, I think it’s a pretty good time for classic film lovers. There’s some lovely restored pictures being released, things we’ve never seen on DVD (like Barbara Stanwyck and Ralph Meeker in the great John Sturges picture Jeopardy), there’s lots of film discussion, especially online, and obviously Hollywood, usually to their folly, looks to classics for re-makes. Like Michael Bay’s ridiculous idea to re-make The Birds. Ugh. Why is Naomi Watts agreeing to do that? But you are right -- living in Los Angeles, I’m amazed by how many people working in the film industry have either no interest or very little knowledge about older, classic cinema. There are exceptions of course, and there are those with a base knowledge, but it’s really depressing. I’ve met a few film majors turned “filmmakers” who’ve seen nearly nothing. They think watching Garden State is the kind of inspiration they need to make their first movie over say, I don’t know…the early work of Polanski (which every aspiring filmmaker should watch, in my opinion).

And kids, well, I don’t know what to do about kids these days. All the teenagers who went to Saw IV – go see Saw, but in addition to that, I really wish they’d watch Eyes Without A Face. Just observe how truly horrifying and weirdly poetic it is when you watch a face being ripped off (and in French). That might pique their interest. That, and anything with a young Ann-Margret. Ann-Margret in The Swinger? Or Kitten With a Whip? What kid could resist that? And it might lead them to Carnal Knowledge. And if Lindsay Lohan can watch all of Ann-Margret’s oeuvre (with all of her shit to deal with), I think other young ones can follow suit. Maybe then Fox will finally release The Pleasure Seekers on DVD.

Nathaniel: Good for you for avoiding my negativity. My brain got stuck there once I realized how many Montgomery Clift performances were getting hard to find.

Kim: Wait, you're right about that. There's so many movies not on DVD it's sickening.

Nathaniel: Popcorn or Candy?

Kim: I'll stay positive and say popcorn. Popcorn without a question.

Nathaniel: On Sunset Gun you seem to have no aversion to lists. I'm not going to torture you with something huge like a top ten that would make a big article on your on blog. But humor us a little. Name your favorite film, director, actor, and actress ... or if you're feeling really generous two for each (one classic, one modern)

Kim: Oh, you are trying to torture me here. I don't know if I can answer that! Hmm…well I just re-watched Bring Me the Head Of Alfredo Garcia, so at this very moment it would be Sam Peckinpah and Isela Vega, but then she’s made all the more powerful with wily Warren Oates at her side. (I have an enormous crush on Warren Oates which I’ve talked about frequently, probably too much.)

<-- Kim with Tuesday Weld... I couldn't resist

Also, have you ever heard the story about Peckinpah wanting to direct the adaptation of Joan Didion's great LA novel Play It As It Lays? It eventually starred Tuesday Weld (whom I worship) and was helmed by Frank Perry and turned out to be an intriguing picture that's now very hard to see, but imagine Peckinpah dancing with Didion. Maybe that would have been absolutely perfect, I'm not sure.

But anyway...back on track here, favorite director and actress. That's immediately making me think of all the great directors of women like Sirk or Cukor or Fassbinder or Robert Aldrich for Autumn Leaves alone, an incredibly sensitive look at female loneliness. I'm currently working on an essay discussing Sam Fuller as one of cinema's great, unsung directors of the female animal, from Thelma Ritter and Jean Peters in Pickup on South Street (Ritter is stunning in that picture and I love the part because it could have just as easily been played by a man); to Constance Towers in The Naked Kiss (how many films open with a bald sexy woman beating the crap out of some guy? And then that woman becomes the heroine? And in 1964?); to the extraordinarily adult, complicated and touching way he shows Victoria Shaw fall in love with James Shigeta in The Crimson Kimono. And then there’s Stanwyck in 40 Guns, where she’s this ass-kicking, whip wielding force of freaking nature.

Did I answer the question?

Nathaniel: You probably answered it in the only way you could have. A horrible Sophie's Choice question for cinephiles.

Of today's current directors or stars who do you think is doing the most interesting work --stuff we might still be talking about in years to come? Or, if you'd care to conjecture... who do you believe could really kick it up a notch if someone gives them the right opportunity.

Kim: With actors, for me at this moment, it’s all about Josh Brolin. He’s got this rugged 1970’s thing going on – great/weird looking (my favorite type), but quirky as hell and essentially a leading man character actor. He was hammy and hilarious in Planet Terror, and then soulful and subtle (while still being funny) in No Country for Old Men, so far the best picture of the year. He reminds me of a young Nick Nolte with a little Charles Bronson and not surprisingly, his father thrown in. But he’s all his own and was at times, brilliant in the four movies he appeared in. He was finally given a chance this year and took it up quite a few notches. The guy is needed in cinema – he’s a man!

And then of course there’s Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Paul Rudd – there’s a lot of great people out there. In terms of directors there’s the obvious The Coen’s, who made a masterpiece this year (why, they haven’t received an Oscar for anything other than the screenplay to Fargo further shows how stupid the Academy is), Wes Anderson, Paul Thomas Anderson – I think the term classic is used too soon for movies these days though. I might sound like a bitter, chain-smoking, 90-year-old motion picture actress but, it used to take some time for a picture to become a classic. I was just reading something that called The Polar Express a classic. Um, no. I think it’s interesting to speculate which pictures might become later classics – like all of the movies in Shane Black’s oeuvre (as both writer and director) – The Last Boy Scout, The Long Kiss Goodnight and Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang.

Who else? I love the direction Gus Van San has taken – call me an aesthetic whore but I get chills just looking at the colors in Elephant or the way he follows the back of Michael Pitt’s head in Last Days. And unlike the detractors who think it’s so much arty, Bela Tarr posturing, the pictures really move me (especially Elephant). And I actually liked Gerry – I love a movie in which the sound of crunching rocks sends viewers states of apoplectic hysteria. I also think Gaspar Noe is savagely brilliant – both I Stand Alone and Irreversible – I wish he’d make other movie. God, I’m practically hyperventilating here. I didn’t even discuss The Rock, as in Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson – I love him. He’s someone who, if given the right part could be absolutely brilliant. Seriously.

Nathaniel: I share the Brolin enthusiasm. At least as far as 2007 is concerned. I met him recently and I'm being totally presumptious here assuming this but I got the impression that he was pretty giddy about the work he's done this year. And justifiably so I should add.

If you ran Hollywood, name three things you'd immediately do.

Kim: Oh God, there's more than three things. But off the top of my head I would, come to an agreement with the writers. Lower ticket prices. And...require that all working in the business watch at least two classic movies a month -- and read a classic piece of literature. Except Beowulf.

Nathaniel: Hee. OK, last question.

They make a movie of your life. Who stars. directs. What's it called. Rating. Tagline? GO!

Kim: Jesus! No, not Jesus, the movie (exclamation point), Jesus Christ this is a tough one. Err…for some reason I immediately thought of Angel Dusted starring Jean Stapleton, but that’s not quite right. Then there’s the other PCP movie where Helen Hunt jumps out of window, Desperate Lives – PCP movies have great titles. OK, uh…I’m going to have to go with the old Susan Hayward drunk movie for title alone, Smash Up: The Story of a Woman with the tagline from that other harrowing Hayward booze-fest, I'll Cry Tomorrow: “Filmed on location; inside a woman’s soul.” It’s my movie so Warren Oates and Lee Van Cleef have to appear. Roman Polanski directs. I want this to be good, so Tuesday Weld stars, of course. I guess I better start drinking...

Nathaniel: Thanks again Kim for your illuminatingly thorough and movie drunk answers. Just the way we like 'em.

Readers, I hope you'll check out Sunset Gun if you aren't already a fan. And add some of these well-loved movies to your rental queue. I know I'm delinquent in getting around to 40 Guns and Pickup on South Street and especially Tuesday Weld's early filmography.


Y Kant Goran Rite said...

I think that's one of my favourite interviews I've read.

Anonymous said...

Nathaniel and Kim - Love both your sites. This is a fantastic interview. The phrase "movie drunk" perfectly encapsulates the fervid tone of the discussion. My Netflix queue is going to sag under the weight of all the movies mentioned. I'll also need to uncover bootlegs of those as yet unreleased Monty Clift and Tuesday Weld titles.


well you can always start with the titles that are on DVD. i know i will with Tuesday Weld

Anonymous said...

Hopefully more Tuesday Weld titles will find their way to DVD. I went every night to the Tuesday Weld retrospective at the Art Theater on 8th Street many years ago. By the way, if you get Pretty Poison on DVD, get the British version from Second Sight which also has commentary from director Noel Black. In spite of the region label, it is playable on US systems. On my most wanted list: Bachelor Flat by Frank Tashlin, with the almost always funny Terry-Thomas, and CinemaScope star Jessica Dachshund.

And thanks for the link to my review of Teeth.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Nathaniel-- This was a pure pleasure to read, and just the thing for a dreary Wednesday morning before a holiday that promises only more work!

I've been a fan of Kim's ever since my wife tossed her Halloween piece from a couple years ago on "Favorite Horror Movies" on my desk. Expecting the usual regurgitation of familiar titles, Kim took the readers on a "movie-drunk" tour of some pictures "the kids these days" would be unlikely to pursue, including Repulsion and Diabolique (the Clouzot version). From that day forward, it was on!

You perfectly captured Kim's fevered cinephilia, but you also captured her sly humor, her lack of pretension and her giddy smarts, as well as her disdain about the level of film education that runs through Hollywood like a dry creek bed. If you're lucky enough to spend time with someone who combines all those qualities, you'll come away from a conversation with a definite buzz on. And that's what your interview did for me. I will link to it immediately!

P.S. Peter is absolutely right. That British Pretty Poison DVD is a killer!

jahs34 said...

I have a crush on Kim since her moviepoopshoot days, or was it hollywood elsewhere?, the one that came first.

Mr. Peel aka Peter Avellino said...

Well, that just makes me want to spend the holiday weekend holed up watching movies I haven't seen yet. I'd love to hear further thoughts from Kim on the lack of interest out there in films older than a few years...but maybe nothing more needs to be said.

Anonymous said...

Great, great interview. I started reading Kim's Sunset Gun site a little over a year ago and thanks to her MSN blog, I got turned on to Film Experience. There's nothing like mad mad movie love. And I second (or is that third) the love for Josh Brolin. He flirted with the A-list in the late '90s but the movies weren't great (The Mod Squad, Best Laid Plans, Hollow Man). If he picks the right roles over the next two years, he could be a huge star.

Headquarters 10 said...

Great work, Nathaniel. I had the pleasure of meeting Kim last week and can confirm what so many you have long suspected - she's really f-ing cool! Your interview brought that out here and gave her the perfect opportunity to showcase not only how much she loves movies, but how smart and witty she is, too. Great reading.

Anonymous said...

Loved that interview. Kim and I love the same movies, the same directors: Samuel Fuller (I love The Naked Kiss, but my favorite is I Shot Jesse James. If you think Dominik's movie is a masterpiece, go see the old Fuller. That's exactly how Godard describes it, "the most impressive close-ups since Dreyer's Joan of Arc), Robert Aldrich, Peckinpah (Alfredo Garcia is beyond marvelous, as Straw Dogs)...

Boy, lots of movies I love here: They Shoot Horses, High Sierra, Baby Doll, Franju's [best horror film of all time] Eyes Without a Face, Pickup on South Street...

I didn't know her blog, but we're twin souls. I don't wanna check, but I am sue she loves Clint Eastwood too. Just the perfect fit for her taste.

Great job, Nathaniel, loved the interview.

- cal roth

Anonymous said...

Thanks for letting us eavesdrop on this intelligent, passionate movie conversation. I agree with Kim. Baby Doll, Marnie and All the President's Men all reward a multitude of multiple viewings. I'm sure "the kids these days" will catch up with Eyes Without a Face when they film the inevitable remake starring Miley Cyrus. Right after they watch the Repulsion remake starring Hayden Panettiere. But before the Sisters remake starring a cross-dressing Dylan and Cole Sprouse.

Anonymous said...

Really cool interview. I'm a big fan of both of your sites. I just picked up the Barbara Stanwyck Signature Collection box set and was really impressed by Jeopardy. What a lean, uncompromising thriller. Autumn Leaves is also great. Not on DVD yet, but Turner Classic Movies airs it occasionally. It has one of the best typewriter sequences outside of Barton Fink.

Anonymous said...

I really dug this interview. I discovered Sunset Gun through Kim's Huffington Post articles and I'm glad that I did. Her writing provides smart, unexpected appraisals of films I've already seen (like her recent Eyes Wide Shut piece) or makes me desperate to see others about which I didn't know I needed to give a damn (like the hard-to-find Nightfall). I can't wait to read the women in the Fuller canon article, just to see what she susses out of The Naked Kiss.

Anonymous said...

kimm/sunsetgun reads like one of those perfect film types, the one we've all been waiting for. the perfect balance of learned expert and passionate geek - totally lacking any pretension or arrogance and while obsessed, she seems quite balanced. ie, I don't get the idea she has a shelf of porcelain Marilyn figurines in the apartment she shares with her wheelchair-bound mother. well, ok, there is that shrine to Warren Oats...

Anonymous said...

i'll always be grateful to kim for letting me in on the greatness that is pretty poison, starring the copiously mentioned and pictured here tuesday weld, through her site. also, her 2007 picks - no country for old men, bug, darjeeling limited and zodiac - are all my favs for the year to date, along with joshua and the assassination of jesse james...


i see Kim has brought in a bunch of new commenters. I'm glad everyone enjoyed this interview and I hope you'll be back for other film talk.

I've so gotta get to Tuesday Weld

Kim said...

As always, Nathaniel, you rule (I must have that poster). I was at The Magic Castle over Thanksgiving with some computer issues (black magic I suppose) and hadn't caught up to all of these comments so…thanks to everyone for the exceptionally nice words. Based on the quality of the comments and some of the excellent work associated with them, I’m incredibly appreciative.

And thanks also, because…well, to quote Warren Oates in "Alfredo Garcia," "Because it feels so damn good!" Or is it so “goddamn good”? Looks like I’m going to have to watch the movie yet again.

P.S. Warren Oates figurines? That would be freakin' awesome – but only through The Franklin Mint.

Karen said...

Kim is one of my new favorite film writers. Her wit makes me laugh. Good interview!!!

Anonymous said...

hey im a fan now nathaniel; nicely interviewed. i'll be coming back to film experience often.

i've been a fan of kim's back when i didn't know if she was a man or a woman (kim, both ways, etc etc) writing these amazingly articulated articles for the wweek. some of her sentences there would stop me in my tracks and have me explaining in appreciation out loud to the crowded city streets.

i've found that people who are smart and have a sense of understanding about the world, bring one of the most important things to their craft; context.

so when she reviews a film, she is understanding the multitude of information and context that influence that film; from the era to the studio politics to the dialogue to the director personality to the set production.

anyways, cheers nathaniel.