Category Archives: michael douglas

Behind the Candelabra

Behind the Candelabra ~ I remember Liberace from my childhood. I remember him from the 1966 “Batman” TV show (in syndication, I’m not that old), where his appearance as villainous twin brothers equaled the series’ highest rated episodes. Such was the power of Liberace. He was not only a fabulous piano player, and a faaah-bulous showman, he was a huge star, and a serious draw when it came to stage and screen. When Liberace was on TV, for various reasons, you had to see it, and his stage show, whether in Vegas, New York, or LA, it was always a sensation.

While it wasn’t talked about back then, I think everyone knew Liberace was gay, it was oddly accepted he was different in that way. Liberace was wholesome entertainment. When I heard HBO was making a movie about him, I feared the worst. Especially after recent hack jobs on Phil Spector and Alfred Hitchcock. HBO knows how to make quality television series, but the folks who make their movies are out of control.

When I heard it would be about Liberace and his last lover, Scott Thorson, I knew it would be another smear piece. Thorson’s book of the same name was a memoir in much the same vein as Mommy Dearest.

Then I heard about the casting, and I was intrigued. Michael Douglas as Liberace, and Matt Damon as Scott Thorson. Wow. Boggles the mind, doesn’t it? Here’s the thing, they pull it off, they pull it off mind bogglingly well. When I see a flick with a big name star, if I can stop calling them by name, and believe they are the character, that’s impressive to me. For instance, Meryl Streep and Mel Gibson are always Meryl and Mel to me, but here, this was Liberace and Thorson. The actors’ performances are stunning.

True or not, those performances are scarred by the outrageous and flamboyant story. It may have happened that way, and they may have worn those clothes, but the absurdity of the situations take away from the quality of Douglas and Damon.

It also doesn’t help that the rest of the cast is filled out by comedians and actors doing their crazy best. Rob Lowe, Dan Ackroyd, Scott Bakula, and Debbie Reynolds, among others, are at their insane peak, equal to Douglas and Damon.

Should you watch it? Definitely. Behind the Candelabra is both time capsule and freakshow, and most importantly a manic showcase for the actors involved, and nowhere near the usual trainwreck we have gotten recently from HBO Films.

Atlas Shrugged: Part I

Atlas Shrugged: Part I ~ There is a small subset of science fiction writers whose work has reached out into areas so not in the fiction arena. There’s L. Ron Hubbard, a pulp, sci-fi, fantasy and adventure hack who set out purposefully to create his own religion – the notorious Scientology. And then there’s Ayn Rand, whose own personal madness fueled a more philosophical movement – Objectivism. All I have to say is thank God Philip K. Dick never decided to branch out into religion, philosophy or politics.

I loved Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead,” “Atlas Shrugged,” and even her lesser known work “Anthem,” but the whole Objectivism thing kinda leaves me cold. Of course the problem here is that the brilliant Atlas Shrugged is almost a monument to the movement. That said, I was very hesitant to see the film version, or at least the first part of a two-part (quite possibly three) film adaptation.

Released last year to art house theaters and not doing well financially at all (it cost $20 million to make yet made less than $5 million at the box office), Atlas Shrugged: Part I is still an amazing film. The story, that of a future society where the intellectuals have gone on theoretical strike and brought the world to a standstill, is staggering.

The film looks great, but the problem is with the execution. The actors, mostly unknowns and character. actors, have no charisma here, and coupled with Rand’s heavy handed dialogue, the beginning is all talk and almost sleep inducing. When I was paying attention, I felt like I was being lectured and browbeaten for being a capitalist. Not good. This is a subversive Wall Street, just without Michael Douglas, and without a soul.

When the story does begin to pick up and I started to warm to a couple of the characters, Ayn Rand’s bourgeois arrogance kicks in. It’s almost as if she’s making fun of the upper class, or more accurately those folk ridiculous enough to want to make a living. The attitude is enough to pull me out of the film and keep me from enjoying on any level. It’s very heavy handed.

Don’t get me wrong, like I said, I like Rand’s writing a lot but I just don’t like being preached at. I never felt that way on the page. And of course, as noted in the title itself, this is only part if the story. Atlas Shrugged: Part II, with an all new cast of better known actors, opens to art house theaters next week. I hope it will be more like Ayn Rand’s fiction and less like philosophies.

Karl Malden Dies at 97

Actor Karl Malden passed away today of natural causes. He was 97.

Malden was probably best known for his sizable nose as much as starring in “The Streets of San Francisco” with Michael Douglas and being the pitchman for American Express, both in the 1970s.

He also won the Oscar for supporting actor for his role as Mitch in A Streetcar Named Desire and was nominated again in 1954 with On the Waterfront. He also appeared in Patton, Nuts, Gypsy, Baby Doll, Pollyanna and one of my faves, the Matt Helm flick Murderers Row.

The man was an acting treasure, and he’ll be missed.

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A Perfect Murder

“IS IT TIME FOR THE GOOD GUYS TO WIN YET?”

A Video Review of A Perfect Murder

Copyright 2003 Glenn Walker

Michael Douglas plays the same guy in every movie he’s in, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. He’s doesn’t suffer for it – he’s a good actor, just at playing Michael Douglas. A clever man beset by circumstances. If you were to tell me that the leads in Fatal Attraction, The Game, Disclosure and even the “Streets of San Francisco” TV series were all the same character I’d have no trouble believing you. Michael Douglas is, well, damn good as Michael Douglas.

Gwyneth Paltrow (View from the Top, Duets, Emma) and Viggo Mortensen (Lord of the Rings, the butchered TV remake of Vanishing Point) at least have range in their parts in A Perfect Murder. Director Andrew Davis’ film is well done, slickly filmed and deliciously acted in a style Hitchcock would be jealous of. The problem with the flick, adapted by Patrick Smith Kelly from the Frederick Knott play, is that nobody can be trusted. There is no one here, not husband, not wife, not other man, no one to root for. You want them all to die. Everyone here is despicable and you can’t wait for their come-uppence.

Whenever I see a suspense or action thriller with my wife her better sensibilities make her bury her face in my shoulder and cry, “Is it time for the good guys to win yet?” I’m glad we didn’t see this one together. I’d have to answer, “Sorry, honey, no good guys this time.”