Tag Archives: Sam Shepard

Sam Shepard 1943-2017

In the clip above, Sam Shepard is interviewed during the 2014 Sundance film festival where he had a new movie, the crime drama Cold in July. He died a few days ago at the age of 73, but the news wasn’t made public until today. I’m sure that several news sites will refer to him as the Bloodline star; that’s how it works. Our memory tends to be short. But Sam Shepard had a great, multifaceted career.

Born in Illinois, the young Sam Shepard worked at a ranch in his teens and later studied agriculture before dropping out and falling in love with theater. He started gaining fame as a writer, winning awards for his early off-Broadway plays in the late 1960s and also writing a few scripts, such as Zabriskie Point for Michelangelo Antonioni. In the 1970s, Shepard was named playwright-in-residence at a San Francisco theater, accompanied Bob Dylan on a 1975 concert tour (he also ended up co-writing the song “Brownsville Girl” with Dylan) and won the Pulitzer for the play “Buried Child”.

In the 1980s, Shepard was an accomplished playwright, but he also began to find success as an actor, starting with his role as a land baron in Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven (1978).  He was Oscar-nominated for his turn as Chuck Yeager in The Right Stuff (1983) and starred in the movie adaptation of his play “Fool for Love”; Robert Altman directed the film in 1986. Over the years, Shepard often made the movies and TV shows where he had a supporting part look better.

Shepard also wrote short stories and essays. His plays were realistic and poetic, depicting outsiders. But as a movie actor, he was often cast as men of authority. When news came of his death today, both Hollywood and Broadway mourned him, including John Leguizamo:

Sam Shepard had a relationship with Jessica Lange that lasted 26 years; they had two kids. They acted in a few films together, perhaps most memorably in Country (1984):

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

Bloodline

Initially a critically lauded Netflix drama from the creators of Damages (2007-2012) that also used flashbacks as clues to something sinister that had happened in the past; here, they were haunting a prominent Florida Keys family, the Rayburns. Everything came to a head when the oldest son and the family’s black sheep, Danny (Ben Mendelsohn), came home after being away for a long time. The show’s attractive locations brought tourists to the Keys, but there were always dark clouds hanging over each character. At first, we were fascinated by the Rayburns, but the third season became dreary and lost its way. Great cast though, especially Mendelsohn as the sleazy Danny.

2015-2017:U.S. Made for TV. 33 episodes. Color. Created by Todd A. Kessler, Glenn Kessler, Daniel Zelman. Cast: Kyle Chandler (John Rayburn), Linda Cardellini (Meg Rayburn), Norbert Leo Butz (Kevin Rayburn), Jacinda Barrett, Jamie McShane, Sissy Spacek, Katie Finneran, Ben Mendelsohn (15-16), Enrique Murciano (15-16), John Leguizamo (16-17), Andrea Riseborough (16), Sam Shepard (15).

Emmy: Outstanding Supporting Actor (Mendelsohn) 15-16.

AVERAGE

IMDb

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

Midnight Special

HE’S NOT LIKE US. 

Roy Tomlin (Michael Shannon) are on the run together with his friend (Joel Edgerton) and eight-year-old boy (Jaeden Lieberher) who has special, awesome powers… which is also a reason why a cult and government agencies are after them. Jeff Nichols continues to impress with a sci-fi thriller echoing Close Encounters of a Third Kind (1977) as well as his other films that are also set in the countryside and portray the relationship between adults and children. There’s a lot of tension in the hunt for Tomlin and his kid, characters we understand and care for and a supernatural theme that fits well into Nichols’s universe. Not quite as penetrating as I was hoping for, but a great cast.

2016-U.S. 112 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Sarah Green, Brian Kavanaugh-Jones. Written and directed by Jeff Nichols. Cast: Michael Shannon (Roy Tomlin), Joel Edgerton (Lucas), Kirsten Dunst (Sarah Tomlin), Adam Driver, Jaeden Lieberher, Sam Shepard.

Last word: “I thought I was very smart taking [the studio] a $20 million film. I thought it would be an easier sell. I really wanted to make something like the first ‘Terminator’. Not in terms of aesthetics or sci-fi or anything like that. That first ‘Terminator’ film was just very tightly wound. It felt like this kernel that could explode, did explode into a mega-franchise. I didn’t think my film would necessarily end up being like that, but I liked that idea and I thought maybe the studio could see it that way. […] The reaction I got was: ‘We don’t do that. We make $100 million films so that we can make $400 million. We don’t make $20 million films so that we can maybe hope to eke out $50 million. It’s the same amount of work for us’.” (Nichols, Film Comment)

 

IMDb

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

Out of the Furnace

SOMETIMES YOUR BATTLES CHOOSE YOU. 

outofthefurnaceAfter serving time in prison, steel mill worker Russell Baze (Christian Bale) learns that his younger brother Rodney (Casey Affleck), who did tours in Iraq, competes in bare-knuckle fights. A grim drama from the director of Crazy Heart (2009) set in an economically depressed Pennsylvania borough. The working-class locations feel genuine, and the movie gets a boost from its cast who make sure that we are committed to the characters. That makes all the difference, because the story follows familiar, bloody paths and there is little credibility in how Woody Harrelson’s scummy villain is portrayed. Still, exciting on a visceral level.

2013-U.S. 116 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Leonardo DiCaprio, Michael Costigan, Ryan Kavanaugh, Jennifer Davisson Killoran, Ridley Scott. Directed by Scott Cooper. Screenplay: Scott Cooper, Brad Ingelsby. Cast: Christian Bale (Russell Baze), Woody Harrelson (Harlan DeGroat), Casey Affleck (Rodney Baze), Forest Whitaker, Willem Dafoe, Zoë Saldana… Sam Shepard.

Trivia: Viggo Mortensen and Billy Bob Thornton were allegedly considered for Harrelson’s part.

5 kopia

 

IMDb

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

Mud

mudTwo Arkansas boys (Tye Sheridan, Jacob Lofland) find a boat stuck in a tree and a mysterious man (Matthew McConaughey) living in it; he’s hiding from something but they agree to help him… In Take Shelter (2011), director Jeff Nichols depicted the countryside in such a natural way and expertly worked tension into it; this drama works the same way. Its themes deal with what it’s like to grow up in your teens and how we deal with an adult world that is difficult to understand. Straightforward and engaging, with good performances by McConaughey as the stranger and Sheridan as a 14-year-old going through an emotional rollercoaster. Rural Arkansas locations are a major asset.

2013-U.S. 130 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Lisa Marie Falcone, Sarah Green, Aaron Ryder. Written and directed by Jeff Nichols. Cast: Matthew McConaughey (Mud), Tye Sheridan (Ellis), Reese Witherspoon (Juniper), Sarah Paulson, Ray McKinnon, Sam Shepard… Michael Shannon, Joe Don Baker.

Trivia: Chris Pine was allegedly considered for the lead.

Last word: “When I said out loud, ‘God, I want a guy hiding out on the Mississippi River,’ that just sounded like a big, classic American movie. And I wanted it to be a big, epic American movie, and I wanted Matthew McConaughey and I wanted Steadicam shots. It wasn’t a specific reaction to the marketplace or me trying to grow my career, it was more about the essence of what I wanted the movie to be. I needed more money because I needed a movie star and I needed the equipment and the resources around me to pull it off, because I didn’t want to slash this budget to $1.5 million and figure it out. We did that with ‘Take Shelter’ and I wasn’t willing to do that with ‘Mud’. (Nichols, Filmmaker Magazine)

4 kopia

 

IMDb

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

The Accidental Husband

FALLING IN LOVE… EVEN THE EXPERT IS CONFUSED.

accidentalhusbandWhen New York City firefighter Patrick Sullivan’s (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) fiancée breaks off their engagement after taking advice from a radio host (Uma Thurman), he comes up with a plan to exact revenge… Unconvincing from the start, the plan only leads Morgan and Thurman into one situation after another that’s supposed to be hilarious but only feels forced. Maybe this romantic comedy would have worked (slightly) better with different leads; she’s hysterical most of the time and he’s far too bland.

2008-U.S. 91 min. Color. Directed by Griffin Dunne. Cast: Uma Thurman (Emma Lloyd), Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Patrick Sullivan), Colin Firth (Richard Braxton), Sam Shepard, Isabella Rossellini, Keir Dullea.

7 kopia

 

IMDb

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

August: Osage County

MISERY LOVES FAMILY.

augustosagecountyWhen the Weston family patriarch (Sam Shepard) disappears one day, the oldest daughter (Julia Roberts) goes back to her childhood home in Oklahoma; she’s never been able to get along with her pill-popping mother (Meryl Streep). The very dark hit play gets its equally claustrophobic film adaptation. Featuring strong, in some cases showy, performances and captured by a barely noticeable camera, the movie certainly has its spellbinding moments. Expect broken china and barrages of insults, but there’s something a little too contrived about this perfect storm of unhappy people clashing over and over.

2013-U.S. 121 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Jean Doumanian, Steve Traxler. Directed by John Wells. Screenplay, Play: Tracy Letts. Cast: Meryl Streep (Violet Weston), Julia Roberts (Barbara Weston), Chris Cooper (Charlie Aiken), Ewan McGregor, Margo Martindale, Sam Shepard… Dermot Mulroney, Julianne Nicholson, Juliette Lewis, Abigail Breslin, Benedict Cumberbatch.

Trivia: Chloë Grace Moretz, Renée Zellweger and Andrea Riseborough were allegedly considered for parts.

5 kopia

 

IMDb

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

Killing Them Softly

After a robbery takes place at a mob-related poker game, professional enforcer Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt) is hired to look into it. Director Andrew Dominik reunited with Pitt from The Assassination of Jesse James… (2007) for a gangster movie with ambitions. Exactly what those are remains unclear; frequent attempts to tie the story to the Great Recession in 2008 are half-baked. The cast delivers, as expected, but many of the conversations and snazzy, sadistic visuals feel like random distractions without much purpose. 

2012-U.S. 97 min. Color. Widescreen. Written and directed by Andrew Dominik. Novel: George V. Higgins (“Cogan’s Trade”). Cast: Brad Pitt (Jackie Cogan), Scoot McNairy (Frankie), Ben Mendelsohn (Russell), Richard Jenkins, James Gandolfini, Ray Liotta… Sam Shepard.

Trivia: Mark Ruffalo, Javier Bardem and Sam Rockwell were allegedly considered for roles. The character of Cogan also makes an appearance in The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973).

IMDb

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

The Right Stuff: Touching the Sky

HOW THE FUTURE BEGAN.

 

I have never understood those people who have no interest in space. That’s like showing no interest in the questions that have occupied scientists and philosophers ever since mankind grew a brain large enough to use it for something other than gathering food. This is a film that portrays people who raise their head, look into the sky and reach out to touch it. I can truly sympathize.

Strangely enough, the film was a box-office flop; one explanation could have been that astronaut John Glenn was a veteran Senator at the premiere of the film and some people thought it was just a propaganda tool meant to help him in the upcoming presidential elections. Based on Tom Wolfe’s meticulously researched novel about the birth of the space programme in the U.S., the film begins in 1947 with the test pilots working in the desert at what is now known as Edwards Air Force Base. Chuck Yeager (Sam Shepard) becomes the man who first breaks the sound barrier. These pilots live dangerous lives, and when President Eisenhower decides that the fledgling space project Mercury needs humans, not monkeys, piloting the capsule that will take the first American into space, Edwards is the place to look for candidates. Yeager is known as the best pilot there ever was, but he was immediately rejected because of his lack of a college degree. Seven pilots were eventually chosen and presented to the press as heroes. As the years went by, the failures piled up in the shape of crashing rockets and the Soviets kept beating the U.S. at the game. But there was eventually progress and in 1961 Alan Shepard (Scott Glenn), one of the Mercury 7, became the first American in space. A year earlier, President Kennedy had stated an ambitious goal to put a man on the moon. Mercury was no longer a laughing stock. All the while, Chuck Yeager continued as a test pilot, proving every day in his own way how no man was ever more qualified to become an astronaut than him.

Representing man’s yearning to push the limit
That part of the movie, using Yeager’s story as a frame, is what makes it special. He truly represents man’s yearning to push the limit, to go where no one has gone before, to chase the demon that people said lived at the sound barrier before it was broken. There is a powerful sequence near the end where Yeager takes an NF-104 to the extreme altitude of 108,000 feet and gets a glimpse of space before he exhausts the plane to the degree that it falls out of the sky. Equally memorable (and stunningly beautiful) is John Glenn’s (Ed Harris) 1962 orbit of Earth, where he experienced sunrise and sunset in a few hours as well as an odd light phenomenon. The film moves from the desert to Washington offices to the space, but cinematographer Caleb Deschanel keeps it believable all the time, no doubt aided by Wolfe’s research that lies in the background. Bill Conti’s music score has a powerful impact and the cast is full of familiar faces; they’re all great, even if no one delivers an outstanding performance. The script often has a good sense of humor (usually when Jeff Goldblum and Harry Shearer show up), but its portrayal of Lyndon Johnson is a tad too comical. It is nevertheless a compelling study of seven men who were not perfect, not necessarily heroes, but achieved great things as long as they stayed together.

It’s a long movie and definitely not for those who feel that space has no room in their lives. But The Right Stuff tells its story vividly, emotionally and intelligently and knows how to appreciate those who will do their best to touch the sky, even if their tool is just a plane, not a rocket.

The Right Stuff 1983-U.S. 193 min. Color. Produced by Robert Chartoff, Irwin Winkler. Written and directed by Philip Kaufman. Novel: Tom Wolfe. Cinematography: Caleb Deschanel. Music: Bill Conti. Editing: Glenn Farr, Lisa Fruchtman, Tom Rolf, Stephen A. Rotter, Douglas Stewart. Cast: Sam Shepard (Chuck Yeager), Scott Glenn (Alan Shepard), Ed Harris (John Glenn), Dennis Quaid, Fred Ward, Barbara Hershey… Veronica Cartwright, Harry Shearer, Jeff Goldblum, Lance Henriksen.

Trivia: William Goldman wrote one draft of the script, but disagreed with Kaufman’s vision and walked out; the final script only credits Kaufman. The real Chuck Yeager makes an appearance in a bar scene.

Oscars: Best Original Score, Film Editing, Sound, Sound Effects Editing.

Quote: “There was a demon that lived in the air. They said whoever challenged him would die. Their controls would freeze up, their planes would buffet wildly, and they would disintegrate. The demon lived at Mach 1 on the meter, seven hundred and fifty miles an hour, where the air could no longer move out of the way. He lived behind a barrier through which they said no man could ever pass. They called it the sound barrier.” (Levon Helm as the narrator)

Last word: “Many of the astronauts wanted to be portrayed as completely infallible. I always felt that John Glenn could have been president if he’d had more Ed Harris in him. (laughs) More of that sort of self-mocking, hipster guy. I think many people wanted the Life Magazine version of the story, although that would have been difficult if we were going to stay faithful to the spirit of Tom Wolfe’s book.” (Kaufman, The Hollywood Interview)

IMDb

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

Safe House

NO ONE IS SAFE.

When a CIA safe house in South Africa is attacked, an inexperienced operative (Ryan Reynolds) is forced to flee along with a high-value prisoner (Denzel Washington). Swedish director Daniel Espinosa’s first American feature is a gritty action-thriller about dirty games within the CIA – it will take the length of the film for our hero to figure out who is a friend or a foe. Offers few real surprises, but it is well paced, has some explosive action and strong performances, not just from Washington, but a very solid one from Reynolds. That final scene does not ring true, however.

2012-U.S. 115 min. Color. Widescreen. Directed by Daniel Espinosa. Cast: Denzel Washington (Tobin Frost), Ryan Reynolds (Matt Weston), Vera Farmiga (Catherine Linklater), Brendan Gleeson, Sam Shepard, Ruben Blades… Robert Patrick, Joel Kinnaman, Fares Fares.

IMDb

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

Brothers

THERE ARE TWO SIDES TO EVERY FAMILY.

brothers09Marine Captain Sam Cahill (Tobey Maguire) leaves his wife and children for a tour in Afghanistan; when he’s reported killed, his screw-up brother (Jake Gyllenhaal) becomes almost a surrogate father. This drama has the potential of greatness, but anyone looking for the real deal should check out the original, the Danish Brothers (2004). Jim Sheridan’s take on the story is faithful, but oddly uninvolving even though it is particularly relevant to an American audience. One reason is Maguire who looks a bit creepy even before his stint in Afghanistan.

2009-U.S. 104 min. Color. Widescreen. Directed by Jim Sheridan. Screenplay: David Benioff. Cast: Tobey Maguire (Sam Cahill), Jake Gyllenhaal (Tommy Cahill), Natalie Portman (Grace Cahill), Sam Shepard, Bailee Madison, Patrick Flueger… Carey Mulligan.

6 kopia

 

IMDb

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

All the Pretty Horses

SOME PASSIONS CAN NEVER BE TAMED.

alltheprettyhorsesA few years after the end of World War II, best friends John Grady Cole (Matt Damon) and Lacey Rawlins (Henry Thomas) head to Mexico to work as cowboys. This film was allegedly shot as a huge epic, but director Billy Bob Thornton was forced to make equally huge cuts, resulting in an episodic movie where we’re thrown between scenes that are quite different from each other. The biggest problem here is a lack of emotional strength. Damon does his best, but the only one in the cast to deliver a memorable performance is Lucas Black as the headstrong teenager.

2000-U.S. 117 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Billy Bob Thornton, Robert Salerno. Directed by Billy Bob Thornton. Screenplay: Ted Tally. Novel: Cormac McCarthy. Cast: Matt Damon (John Grady Cole), Henry Thomas (Lacey Rawlins), Lucas Black (Jimmy Blevins), Penélope Cruz, Rúben Blades, Robert Patrick… Bruce Dern, Sam Shepard.

Trivia: Brad Pitt was allegedly considered for the part of Cole.

6 kopia

 

IMDb

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

BEYOND THE MYTH LIES AMERICA’S GREATEST BETRAYAL.

 

In the late 1800s, 19-year-old Robert Ford (Casey Affleck) tries hard to join a band of outlaws run by the legendary Jesse James (Brad Pitt), a man he’s admired since he was a kid. Director Andrew Domenik delivers another film about a criminal after Chopper (2000); this is the true story of how Jesse James was killed by his number one fan. Interesting to follow the different sides to their relationship; the theme of obsessive idolatry remains sadly relevant today. The story doesn’t hold up for two and a half, slow hours, but the film has a poetic touch reflected in the beautiful, desolate cinematography and the low-key music. Affleck is outstanding as the naive, resentful and cowardly Ford.

2007-U.S. 160 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Brad Pitt, Ridley Scott, David Valdes, Jules Daly, Dede Gardner. Written and directed by Andrew Dominik. Novel: Ron Hansen. Cinematography: Roger Deakins. Music: Nick Cave, Warren Ellis. Cast: Brad Pitt (Jesse James), Casey Affleck (Robert Ford), Sam Shepard (Frank James), Mary-Louise Parker, Paul Schneider, Jeremy Renner… Zooey Deschanel, Sam Rockwell, James Carville, Nick Cave.

Trivia: Shia LaBeouf was allegedly considered for the part of Ford.

Venice: Best Actor (Pitt).

Last word: “I always thought the film was great. But it’s a weird movie – it’s fruity. It’s a fruity movie about suffering, like ‘Barton Fink’. It’s baroque; it’s rococo. You’ve got to look at it from the studio’s point of view. They make movies that are real crowd-pleasing films. They look at a film like this and think: Jesus Christ, what is this? Everybody is always trying to make the best movie they can. It’s a process.” (Dominik, Time Out)

IMDb

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)