Billy, How Did You Do it?

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Billy & Cameron. Photo By Neal Preston

We lost the great Billy Wilder 15 years ago today. I thought it would be great to remember him with this 2005 Sight & Sound piece that Cameron wrote. It’s new to The Uncool and we hope you seek out a Wilder film to watch tonight!

Billy, how did you do it?

‘Elizabethtown’ director Cameron Crowe pays tribute to Billy Wilder

 The first Billy Wilder movie to ever grace my family’s living room was Some Like It Hot. I was too small to catch all the subtext of those cross-dressing musicians, but this much was clear: something was going on inside that movie. A subversive sense of humour was at play, and those big laughs rocked our house. Later, someone pointed out that the same man made Sunset Blvd., another movie we all watched together as a family. Both were late-night ‘movies of the week’ on TV. The magic was palpable, even on that small screen.

I decided to become a film-maker to protect a script I’d written called Say Anything… A number of other directors had passed on it, and the script was about to fall into the hands of someone who cared a lot less about it than me. Wilder, a journalist who became a director for similar reasons, was one of the first masters I turned to in preparing to direct. Most writer-directors seeking inspiration eventually go to Wilder. I worked through his pictures one by one. His work was like a drug – character-rich stories filled with laughs and story turns so deft you could get a body rush sitting in the theatre. Eventually, I got to The Apartment, sadly after my father had passed away. Halfway through, it was already my favourite. When I heard the last line of the movie, “shut up and deal”, I realised where one of my dad’s favourite phrases had come from.

Part of the great fun of being a fan of Billy Wilder is that your favourite Wilder pictures change over the years. For me, sometimes it’s Love in the Afternoon; other times it’s A Foreign Affair; but usually I return to The Apartment. The characters, the score, the melancholy and the perfection of the script and performances… It’s hard to top. though the fizzy comic wallop of Some Like It Hot sure gives it a run for its money.

In my experience of interviewing him, Wilder usually chose Some Like It Hot or The Apartment as his personal favourite. His reasons he said, were mostly script-based. He just loved the structure and the successful collaborations with his writing partner Izzy Diamond. He often mentioned the ‘cracked mirror’ scene in The Apartment as one of his favourite moments in any of his films He explained that these pictures and Sunset Blvd. “just worked”. Of his audience favourites, the only one that seemed to displease him was Irma la Douce. As for his favourite actors, he always mentioned Lemmon and Matthau and, with an extra twinkle, Charles Laughton.

Double Indemnity survives because of its masterful victory of tone and performance and direction. For a still young director, it was a work of sly bravura. And Wilder’s favourite element – the inner ‘love story’ between Fred MacMurray and Edward G. Robinson – gives the movie its freshness and a dark kick. Many try for this tone; few get there.Wilder used to say that a masterful comic actor like Cary Grant would forever be beaten at the Oscars by a less talented, furrow-browed serious actor with a “physical ailment of some kind”. It was his way, I think, of waving the flag for what he felt to be a far more difficult exercise – comedy. He was a great fan of modem pictures that had a certain graceful comic perfection, like the Japanese film Shall We Dance?. He also loved the deep-tissue satire of American Beauty. As for his own legacy, Wilder sometimes scoffed, “Why would anyone care about me?” But, in fact, he’d noticed the parade of younger film-makers who cited him and made a point of telling me it genuinely surprised and touched him. “A lot’?” “A little,” he’d answer with a trademark flick of his eyebrow that indicated the opposite might also be true.

As Wilder once said of Audrey Hepburn, “there is only one”. But his lessons to other modern directors are clear: protect your script and your characters; observe the values of script structure… Take a look at the work of Wilder’s own heroes, from Ernst Lubitsch to William Wyler, and then go out there with a camera and tell your stories with glee and a ferocious lack of false sentimentality. But most of all, “don’t bore them”.

Courtesy of Sight & Sound – Cameron Crowe – October, 2005

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Pearl Jam – State of Love and Trust/Breath 7″

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As we inch closer to the Singles Deluxe Edition Soundtrack, A Pearl Jam 7″ will be released on April 22nd as part of this year’s Record Store Day to celebrate.  The double A side vinyl will be limited to 5000 copies. We’d like to be the first to share both the front and back covers.

 

 

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Singles/Almost Famous Double Feature!

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The (always great) Prince Charles Cinema in London, England is showing a 35mm double feature of Singles and Almost Famous on Monday, March 20th. More info and tickets can be purchased on their official site. Give us a shout and send us some pics if you’re able to attend.

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Joe Walsh and Barnstorm Review

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Joe Walsh photo by Henry Diltz

Cameron did a rare concert review for Rolling Stone in the summer of 1973. It’s brand new to The Uncool. Enjoy!

Joe Walsh and Barnstorm
Winterland
July 7th, 1973

Several hours before showtime, Joe Walsh sat in nervous anticipation on the edge of his motel room bed. “I am so excited about tonight,” he blurted. “I just want to go out there and . . . kill ’em.”

When Joe Walsh bowed out as the guitarist-vocalist and focal point of the James Gang last year, the impression given by his fellow band members was that Joe was off to Colorado to become thoroughly immersed in the “get-my-head=together-and-make-my-solo-album” syndrome.

Truth was that Walsh knew exactly where his head was, and it wasn’t with the James Gang. Tired of the trio’s shoddy compromises that he was forced to comply with. Joe left to record Barnstorm, a masterful, if fairly low-keyed solo LP. The ethereal tunes then out of his system, he promptly returned to the high-powered style that was his trademark. To celebrate the occasion, he formed his own band, also called Barnstorm, and went on to record an album of mainstream rock & roll. The LP, The Smoker You  Drink, The Player You Get, is Joe Walsh’s finest work to date if only for the band’s perfectly offsetting musicianship.

And this brings us to Barnstorm’s recent appearance at Winterland as show-opener for the Doobie Brothers and the New Riders of the Purple Sage. Given no sound-check and all of 45 minutes to perform, the group wasted no time in overpowering what normally would have been a still-milling sold-out crowd of 5000.

Playing material mainly from the Smoker LP, the band was able to dart in several directions without straying far from the common denominator of rock & roll. Several of the tunes were laced with improvised interplay between Rock Grace’s piano and Walsh’s guitar, while Tom Stevenson’s synthesizer belched gushes of wind and drummer Joe Vitali guided the interludes to their climactic peaks. Summoning images of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, the stream-of-conscious musicianship bordered at times on jazz without alienating a crowd that had come to be rocked.

Two vintage James Gang tunes, “Tend My Garden” with bassist Kenny Pacerelli on harmonies, and “The Bomber,” actually a medley of “Closet Queen” and Vince Guaraldi’s “Cast Your Fate to the Wind,” far surpassed their original versions and earned bales of applause from the audience. But it was the new single, “Rocky Mountain Way,” that whipped them into a frenzy.

A standing ovation brought Barnstorm back for “Funk 49.” Needless to say, Walsh’s guitar wailed and his voice soared. The set had been flawlessly paced.

Pete Townshend has said many times that Joe Walsh was his favorite contemporary guitarist. Let us just say that Townsend saved face that evening. Walsh did kill ’em.

Courtesy of Rolling Stone #141 – Cameron Crowe – August 16, 1973

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Happy Birthday to Mr. James Taylor!

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Photo by Timothy White

Photo by Timothy White

James celebrated his birthday yesterday and he is still going strong. He’s been on the road touring for the past few years with his latest album, Before This World. He’s wrapping that tour up in South America, but will back on the road this Summer with Bonnie Raitt in the US. Let’s jump back in our time machine to Cameron’s 1976 story from the L.A. Times.

James Taylor: Just a Homebody Who Finds No Warmth in the Spotlight

The young man edged closer and stared for a moment to make sure the lanky figure in the corner of the restaurant was indeed James Taylor. The man then tore a soiled bandage from his own forehead and began shrieking that Taylor had just miraculously healed him.Within seconds, the other customers in the restaurant were gawking at the shy singer-songwriter. Taylor sighed quietly and buried his head in his hands. All he had wanted was a burger.

Read the rest of this post

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Dan Patrick: Looking Back on Jerry Maguire

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Cameron called into the Dan Patrick Show last Friday to discuss Jerry Maguire one last time as we wrap up the 20th Anniversary. You can watch it unfold above.

 

 

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Singles Deluxe Edition Soundtrack

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It’s finally coming! We are very pleased to announce that the Singles Deluxe Edition Soundtrack is finally coming on May 29th! There will be two versions. A 2 CD set and a 2 LP Set(plus a bonus CD with all the extra tracks).

The 2 CD Set includes additional songs from the film, unreleased demos and live versions.

CD Disc 1
1. “Would?” — Alice in Chains
2. “Breath” — Pearl Jam
3. “Seasons” — Chris Cornell
4. “Dyslexic Heart” — Paul Westerberg
5. “Battle of Evermore” — The Lovemongers
6. “Chloe Dancer / Crown of Thorns” — Mother Love Bone
7. “Birth Ritual” — Soundgarden
8. “State of Love and Trust” — Pearl Jam
9. “Overblown” — Mudhoney
10. “Waiting for Somebody” — Paul Westerberg
11. “May This Be Love” — Jimi Hendrix
12. “Nearly Lost You” — Screaming Trees
13. “Drown” — Smashing Pumpkins

CD Disc 2
1. “Touch Me I’m Dick” – Citizen Dick
2. “Nowhere But You” – Poncier (Chris Cornell)
3. “Spoon Man” – Poncier (Chris Cornell)
4. “Flutter Girl” – Poncier (Chris Cornell)
5. “Missing” – Poncier (Chris Cornell)
6. “Would” (live film version) – Alice In Chains
7. “It Ain’t Like That Anymore” (live film version) – Alice In Chains
8. “Birth Ritual” (live film version) – Soundgarden
9. “Dyslexic Heart” (acoustic demo) – Paul Westerberg
10. “Waiting For Somebody” (score acoustic) – Paul Westerberg
11. “Overblown” (demo)–Mudhoney
12. “Heart and Lungs” – Truly
13. “Six Foot Under” – Blood Circus
14. “Singles Blues #1” (score) – Mike McCready
15. “Blue Heart” (score) – Paul Westerberg
16. Lost In Emily’s Words (score) – Paul Westerberg
17. “Ferry Boat #3” (score) – Chris Cornell
18. Score Piece #4 (score)  – Chris Cornell

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Five Favorite Films

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Cameron shared his five favorite films (okay, six) with Rotten Tomatoes recently. Here they are in no particular order.

localhero

Local Hero (1983)
Bill Forsyth, come back!  It’s hard enough to create a movie this deeply funny, so odd and so memorable… but to have a score like Mark Knopfler’s, too? Come on. This is the holy grail of personal filmmaking with a distinctive directorial touch. Also check out Forsyth’s other films like Comfort and Joy and Gregory’s Girl for his trademark touch: the random moment that has no reason to be in the movie, except it’s everything you think about later.

 

Quadrophenia (1979) and Control (2007)
Quadrophenia and Control. Franc Roddam and Anton Corbijn’s films both accomplish the rarest thing; they capture the feeling in the music of the bands that they’re covering. To watch these two great movies is to geek out on cinematic portraits that remind you exactly why you first fell in love with a Townshend power chord, or discovered Ian Curtis’ bleak genius. Character to look for: Steph (Leslie Ash), the scene-stealer from Quadrophenia.
rulesofthegame

The Rules of the Game
(La Règle du jeu) (1939)
Jean Renoir puts on a master class in ensemble comedy-drama. Period.
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The Royal Tenenbaums (2002)
The Royal Tenenbaums is a mood masterpiece. Everything about Wes Anderson’s film is perfect; it immediately transports you to a world only he could create. Part Salinger, part idealized New York, but mostly Wes’ pleasantly devastating view of this family’s life, Tenenbaums succeeds on great writing and extremely particular filmmaking. Put this together with a score and a soundtrack for the ages, and you have a film that operates like the best of Hal Ashby or even a filmmaker like Miyazaki. It feels so good, it’s almost like a drug. Also, the Rolling Stones have never been used better in film history, and that’s just one of the movie’s many wonderful marriages of music and cinema. And then there’s Gene Hackman…
theapartment

The Apartment (1960)

You really can’t beat The Apartment for finding laughs and heartache and triumph in the life of a morally compromised schnook of an insurance salesman. The great Billy Wilder was at one of his many career peaks here, finding unforgettable depth in Shirley MacLaine as elevator operator Fran Kubelik, and pulling a delicious Mitt Romneyesque-bad-guy performance out of an unlikely casting choice, the Disney leading man from FlubberFred MacMurray.

The high-water mark in romantic comedy, this movie is so assured of its tone that even an attempted suicide is never far from a big laugh. It’s all wrapped up in giddy melancholy and — in a rare move — the Academy gave this comedy a whole bunch of Oscars too. Viva Wilder!

 

Courtesy of Rotten Tomatoes – January 4, 2017

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Mike Finger’s The Blue and the Black