Episode 8 - Hal Ashby's 8 MILLION WAYS TO DIE with Special Guest Larry Karaszewski
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6 responses to “Fade Out – Hal Ashby”
i’m greenlighting airport 29 right now!
Wonderful episode! I’ve seen several of Ashby’s films over the years & have enjoyed them. However, I always seem to forget him when considering the great directors of his era. The “Monster that ate Hollywood” – the rise of the blockbusters in the late 1970s doomed his kind of films. Unfortunately, I feel things have only gotten worse in recent years as the big screen movies are mostly about spectacle.
One other problem I see today is that the current crop of stars have relatively little opportunity to do any real/more humanistic acting. The MCU stars have a relatively poor track record when not wearing their superhero spandex. Are there directors like Ashby around today to give today’s A-listers a really meaty script? As the various Chris’s age out of superheroics where do their careers go next? I think the same problem holds true today for directors. Am I wrong that there seems to be a dearth of distinct directorial style or voice. This is especially apparent in the MCU movies which are becoming increasingly rote.
I saw Being There as a kid & always remembered it. Could it or something like Harold & Maude be made today even with so many “platforms?” I doubt it when films are described now more as “content.”
I’ve seen all but one of Ashby’s editorial efforts, but only one of his directorial efforts (Being There), so looks like I have some catching up to do.
Chuck, you ask if you’re wrong and I think you are. If your only sample if the big American blockbusters, you’re not going to find unique visions there. If you widen your search, you’ll find there’s plenty.
Ask him to read my spec for a Problem Child redo!
Another entertaining and informative episode! I’ve seen many of Ashby’s films a long time back, but now I want to go back and revisit the ones I’ve seen, and experience the ones I haven’t. (Well, except for The Slugger’s Wife…) I saw Being There when I was a kid, with my whole family, but it went mostly over my head then…even though I know I saw it, I have absolutely no memory of THAT scene with Shirley MacLaine (although I’ve read about it in the years since), so I must have had no idea whatsoever what she was doing.
I do remember renting 8 Million Ways to Die on VHS in the days of Blockbuster Video, but I didn’t remember that it was directed by Hal Ashby. In contrast to my memories (or lack thereof) of Being There, the ONLY thing I remember about 8 Million Ways to Die was Alexandra Paul’s nude scene (and her bizarre dialogue during it). I think I must have been too young for both movies at the time…too innocent to understand Being There, and too adolescent to appreciate anything besides the prurient interest of 8MWtD. I hope I’m mature enough to appreciate them fully now.
The quote from Milos Forman about life not fitting into a single genre reminds me of a similar quote from Alan Moore, which is quoted on Moore’s TV Tropes page:
“Life isn’t divided into genres. It’s a horrifying, romantic, tragic, comical, science-fiction cowboy detective novel. You know, with a bit of pornography if you’re lucky.”
Drawing a connection to yet another comic creator, when you discussed the pitfall of depicting a character who’s written to be an outstanding performer when the actual performance doesn’t live up to the hype, I remembered Neil Gaiman speaking on a panel at DragonCon many years ago. He was discussing the “Calliope” issue of Sandman, where a writer is cursed with more ideas than he can actually write down and flesh out. Gaiman mentioned that the challenge was tossing out all these story ideas, knowing that he’d never expand them into actual stories, and yet making them interesting enough that they COULD be good stories. He compared it to writing a movie about a rock star who’s supposed to be a brilliant musician, “but then the song he plays is like ‘Chewing Bubblegum, Yeah Yeah.'” It sounds like the music in The Slugger’s Wife fell into that very trap.
Fascinating discussion, even though I am only vaguely aware of most of Ashby’s work. Like Erich above, I enjoyed the diversion into outstanding performances in-movie that really aren’t, and in fact are sometimes horrible. It’s something that the recent Bill & Ted Face the Music brought up when they dared to show the fabled concert that Bill & Ted would perform that would align the planets and create peace throughout space and time. I was dubious that we would get a Rebecca DeMornay-like experience that would retroactively crush the entire film, and by extension the series, but through some clever plot contrivances, they pulled it off. I’m sorry I brought Bill & Ted talk to your serious movie discussion, but it came to mind.