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10 thoughts on “Easy Riders, Raging Bulls

  1. says:

    However much is true, however much really happened that way, Easy Riders, Raging Bulls How The Sex N Drugs N Rock N Generation Saved Hollywood by Peter Biskind remains one of my favorite non fiction reads For those who hear film history and think Titanic, in 1967, the major American film studios were in such disarray and the counterculture seemed to be overturning conventions with such speed that a new generation of filmmakers, by and large under the age of 30, and universally white males , briefly seized the controls This director driven era of American film lasted ten years and generated such groundbreaking pictures as Easy Rider, M A S H, The Last Picture Show, The Godfather, American Graffiti, The Exorcist, Mean Streets, Chinatown, Jaws, Shampoo, Taxi Driver, Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Apocalypse Now and Raging Bull Biskind, the former executive editor of Premiere magazine goes behind the scenes of each film and others to explore the creative hubris that resulted in these ever being made and the personal hubris that destroyed the careers of many involved, as well as ultimately turning control from the artisans back over to the financiers Some choice excerpts Peter Fonda s call couldn t have come at a better moment for Dennis Hopper He had hit rock bottom A wild and disheveled sometime actor, talented photographer, and pioneering collector of Pop Art, a former pal and acolyte of James Dean, whom he had met on the set of Rebel Without a Cause, Hopper had been blackballed for crossing swords with director Henry Hathaway He was in the habit of buttonholing studio types at parties and hectoring them about the industry it was rotting from within, it was dead the Ancient Mariner on acid He kept saying, Heads are going to roll, the old order is going to fall, all you dinosaurs are going to die He argued that Hollywood had to be run on socialist principles, that what was needed was an infusion of money channeled to young people like himself He recalled, I was desperate I d nail a producer in a corner and demand to know, Why am I not directing Why am I not acting Who wants to deal with a maniac like that They smirked, moved away. Now that The Last Picture Show was happening, Bogdanovich finally got around to reading the book Peter was in a funk He was a New York boy, what did he know from small town Texas Polly Platt liked the book because it spoke to her experience growing up in the Midwest There were all these movies about this, but they were all fake, she says, Everything that s in that book, the taking off of the bra, hanging it on the car mirror, the hands that were cold and the girl who would only let him touch her tits, just barely getting your hand up this girl s leg, were experiences I d had as a young woman There were parts of the woman s body that were completely off limits in America These were things that it was just impossible to show in Hollywood films, whereas in European films, like Blow Up, you saw pubic hair Most films used professional extras the same faces would turn up again and again, looking like cookie cutouts Francis didn t want to use professionals, because he didn t want The Godfather to look like other movies He wanted the faces to look authentic, so he spent a lot of time casting the extras Says Gray Frederickson, That was not the way Hollywood had ever done things before, and it freaked them out Extras were extras To the studio, it was just time wasted The day they shot Clemenza with the cannoli, Jack Ballard, Paramount s head of physical production, told Francis, If you don t finish on time today, you re not gonna come to work tomorrow Rumors flew that, indeed, Coppola was going to be fired. Usually, when studio executives screen a picture, they exit without comment After Ashley, Calley, and Wells saw The Exorcist for the first time, they just sat there, dumbfounded Calley asked, rhetorically, What in the fuck did we just see They loved it, but did not know what they had, and decided to release it in no than thirty theaters, where it was to play exclusively for six months, a terrible release pattern for a potential blockbuster, as The Godfather had shown Nor did Warners preview the picture They were afraid to Says William Friedkin, If The Exorcist had previewed it would have never come out Cause people would have written on the cards, This is terrible, you have a little girl masturbating with a crucifix, you dirty Jew bastard Those were the kind of notes we got anyway, afterward But if we d gotten them before, they would have died Meanwhile, Paul Schrader continued to write furiously He desperately wanted to direct Somewhere in between how Obsession and Yakuza turned out I realized that if you were a critic or a novelist, you lived by your words, he says When you re a screenwriter, that didn t happen You re half an artist If you wanted to be in control of your own life, you had to be a filmmaker He rewrote the Taxi Driver script, wanted it to be an American Notes from the Underground, an American Pickpocket He read the diary of Arthur Bremer, the man who shot George Wallace One night, in a New York hotel, he picked up a girl in a bar When he got her to his room, he realized that she was 1 a hooker, 2 underage, and 3 a junkie At the end of the night, I sent Marty Scorsese a note saying, Iris is in my room We re having breakfast at nine Will you please join us A lot of the character of Iris was rewritten from this girl who had the concentration span of about twenty seconds Lucas felt he was ready to screen Star Wars The special effects weren t finished, and George had cut in black and white dogfights from old World War II films, but you got the general idea DePalma, Spielberg, Huyck and Katz, Cocks, and Scorsese met at the Burbank airport It was foggy, and the flight to San Francisco was delayed When it finally took off, Scorsese wasn t on board He was as nervous about Star Wars as Lucas was about New York, New York He hated flying, but Huyck and Katz thought, Well, he s really competitive, he really didn t want to see it, didn t want to know about the film As Scorsese puts it, You d have the anxiety if it s better than yours, or even if it isn t better than yours, you think it is And your friends will tell you it is And you believe it For years Simply put, the success of Star Wars, coupled with the failure of New York, New York, meant that the kinds of movies Scorsese made were replaced by kinds of movies that Lucas and Spielberg made As John Milius put it, When I was at USC, people were flocking to Blow Up, not going to the theaters to the jolted by a cheap amusement park ride But Lucas and Spielberg showed there was twice as much money out there, and the studios couldn t resist that No one had any idea you could get as rich as this, like ancient Rome You can clearly blame them And Friedkin, Star Wars swept all the chips off the table What happened with Star Wars was when like McDonald s got a foothold, the taste for good food just disappeared Now we re in a period of devolution Everything has gone backward toward a big sucking hole Easy Riders, Raging Bulls has my highest recommendation for students and others discovering the key films of the era and are looking for information about this gilded age in Hollywood Biskind really does his work, getting superstars like Warren Beatty and Steven Spielberg on the record as well as those who worked behind the scenes like film editors Marcia Lucas and Paul Hirsch who never became famous There s gossip the author has contributed to Vanity Fair and probably a bit of exaggeration or even misrepresentation on a few fronts, but Biskind covers multiple sides of any event pretty well None better than the test screening of Star Wars in San Francisco With the effects and sound finally finished, Lucas screened it again at the Northpoint, just like Graffiti Marcia had taken a week off from New York, New York to help George Previews always mean recutting, Lucas said gloomily, anticipating the worst The suits were there, Ladd and his executives Marcia had always said, If the audience doesn t cheer when Han Solo comes in at the last second in the Millennium Falcon to help Luke when he s being chased by Darth Vader, the picture doesn t work From the opening shot of the majestic Imperial Starship drifting over the heads of the audience across the black vastness of space studded with stars blinking like diamonds, the place was electric They made the jump to hyperspace, and you could see bodies flying around the room in excitement, recalls Hirsch When they get to that shot where the Millennium Falcon appears at the last minute, not only did they cheer, they stood up in their seats and raised their arms like a home run in the ninth inning of the seventh game of the World Series I looked over at Marcia and she gave me a look like, I guess it works, ya know So we came out, I said to George, So whaddya think He said, I guess we won t recut it after all


  2. says:

    This book is alternately fabulous and frustrating In the fabulous column, Biskind is to be commended for his incredibly thorough research How he got an interview with producer Bert Schneider is beyond my comprehension the guy is a total recluse, and one of the most fascinating figures in Hollywood history I love the way he puts across the story telling abilities of his intervieweesinstead of distilling the information in cold, analytical prose, he lets everybody from Bruce Dern to Warren Beatty to Margot Kidder speak for themselves in compelling, salty language There s plenty of dirt dished in this book, and I was ready for second and third helpings by the time I finished it.On the minus side, Biskind comes across as an embittered would be filmmaker in this book He takes people to task for some pretty dumb things For instance, I find it difficult to buy his argument that Steven Spielberg and George Lucas ruined 70s Hollywood by cranking out enormously popular films I mean, all they did was make great movies The fact that mainstream producers insisted that every subsequent movie draw record crowds is what drove the nail in the coffin of 70s cinema Clearly, Spielberg and Lucas have tremendous talent, as well as a deep respect for filmmaking It s not their freakin fault that the money guys stopped funding quirky genre pictures as a result of the success of pictures like Jaws and Star Wars.Also, I had to laugh at the way Biskind clucked his tongue at the excesses of guys like Martin Scorsese, Hal Ashby, and Francis Ford Coppola, only to turn around and mock Steven Spielberg for being a nerd I mean, if you re going to argue that drugs and alcohol derailed the careers of some fine directors, you can t then chastise the one guy who led a squeaky clean existence Besides, such views are reductive, in my opinion Nobody is sadder than me that 70s film culture no longer exists But if you re going to lay the blame for its demise with anyone, put it the door of the people who fail to finance great pictures, instead of the ones who have the courage to make them.


  3. says:

    The upshot of this book s negative reviews seems to be that it is too full of gossip I m trying to imagine someone who buys a book about the film industry and is surprised, much less disappointed, by encountering gossip.According to Biskind, the great party house in the early 70s was the little A frame Margot Kidder and Jennifer Salt rented for 400 a month on Nicholas Beach near Malibu Nowadays Kidder says that Biskind exaggerated its debauchery, that it was really a pretty mellow scene I find this revelation terribly disappointing I need my illusions I am even distressed to learn that Salt went on to write the screenplay for Eat, Pray, Love.


  4. says:

    um trabalho de pesquisa e entrevista colossal, mas o autor tem um tom bem limitado quando resolve comentar as coisas com sua opini o pessoal, especialmente se tratando da qualidade dos filmes citados, em que diabos de zona al m da imagina o ele vive para negar que Apocalypse Now seja uma obra prima absoluta Ou ainda compactuar com a ideia de Heaven s Gate foi mesmo um fracasso inclusive art stico quando na realidade uma das grandes obras do Cimino Apesar de seus conceitos equivocados sobre qualidade f lmica e tom mais preocupado em obter fofocas sensacionalistas para incrementar seu livro, n o deixa de ser um puta livro interessante de ler, mas que pouco trata de cinema afinal.


  5. says:

    Directors don t have much power any, the executives make unheard of amounts of money, and budgets are out of control than they ever were And there hasn t been a classic in ten years Francis Ford CoppolaAfter Bonnie and Clyde opened, Stefan Kanfer defined the New Hollywood in the most perfect way disregard for time honored pieties of plot, chronology, and motivation a promiscuous jumbling together of comedy and tragedy ditto heroes and villains sexual boldness and a new, ironic distance that withholds obvious moral judgments The history of cinema is chock full of interesting people, tidbits, and large entities that every cinema lover should be aware of to understand why films are what they are Biskind recounts with vividness albeit with an unpolished touch the story of rebellious New Hollywood It was like a shooting star that shined brightly for a while but which ended up in a crater somewhere in the desert It was a concept that bit itself in the leg despite the best of intentions, and the last time Hollywood produced a body of risky, high quality work as opposed to the errant masterpiece work that was character , rather than plot driven, that defied traditional narrative conventions, that challenged the tyranny of technical correctness, that broke the taboos of language and behavior, that dared to end unhappily In this case, it s vital to understand the context of 70s and late 60s movies to fully grasp their ideas and potential.New Hollywood boiled down to the ambitious goal to override the studio system and give talented people the chance to explore their ideas in a new artistic, auteurish, way, making the 70s the era of directors It s when Biskind tries to venture to the business side does the text shrivel into mere detailed listings of budgets and how much of the cut each one involved got He, does, however, manage to convey the feeling that the era was the time for young people to take away the power from the giants of the John Ford era and to take advantage of the executives confusion about the changes of the social climate, and go completely berserk with their ideas and personal lives.Despite having a pretty varied taste in movies, it was fantastic to find out that the NH directors were inspired by and in some cases even aspired to be the great auteurs of the European cinema Arthouse requires a specific kind of attention and the utmost focus of the viewer, but Scorsese et.al injected their films with their own sense style Perhaps not always as recognisable as Europeans especially Antonioni and Bergman , but slightly approachable for the big audience although I still can t believe Raging Bull 1980 bombed.Not only that, but the small changes in the movie making process Biskind discusses all make sense when watching the movies Taxi Driver 1976 etc Script writers ceased to be disposable and it was important for them to dive headfirst into their work, instead of considering it as a some sort of cheap job on the way to literature Cast on the other hand was no longer comprised of polished cookie cutter people, but apart from a few exceptions of course average looking theatre people that lended realism to the movies Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate 1967 is a prime example No one was especially looking for stars.Biskind suggests that NH was partly about anger at authority and celebration of counterculture like in Easy Rider 1969 This tapped into a new audience, but unfortunately it didn t last long Biskind s tone feels slightly derogatory, especially towards Lucas and Spielberg He also seems to draw his own conclusions and interprets some movies in a way that it s represented as fact instead of as his own opinion I m not a fan of non fiction authors who make their stances known, especially if the manner is bitter and unfairly inculpatory.That being said, I understand what Biskind perhaps wants to say The enthusiasm for making art gradually yielded when the studios started to recover Spielberg and Lucas can t be the only ones to blame, but they did contribute involuntarily to the blockbuster era Biskind makes a convincing claim that Spielberg s leanings towards conservatism and commercialism, occasional twelve year old like behaviour, affinity with not crediting whoever helped him in his current movie Rob Cohen thinks Verna Fields was responsible for the idea of showing only little of the shark in Jaws 1975 etc , and favoring regressed adults and nostalgia for authority lead to tasteless and odourless cinema.It may not be Spielberg s fault that after Jaws the studios were hungry for equally lucrative profits, but he chose to be part of the establishment Us turning into an all inclusive everyman instead of the counterculture kids is not necessarily only a bad thing, but it gave way to diluted family fares Biskind says that Lucas had wanted a wholesome Jesus Christ I hate that word tone for Star Wars 1977 , claimed it was a Disney movie, favoured happy endings along with straightforward storytelling and accessible two dimensional characters I agree with Biskind regarding Lucas and Spielberg bringing back small town and suburban values Lucas even said that Words are great in the theater, but that s not movies Chilling.Can you imagine what Apocalypse Now 1979 would have looked like if it had been directed by Lucas like it was initially intended Pauline Kael said it well Discriminating moviegoers want the placidity of nice art of movies tamed so that they are no arousing than what used to be called polite theater So we ve been getting a new cultural puritanism people go to the innocuous hoping for the charming, or they settle for imported sobriety, and the press is full of snide references to Coppola s huge film in progress They were infantilizing the audience, reconstituting the spectator as child, then overwhelming him and her with sound and spectacle, obliterating irony, aesthetic self consciousness, and critical reflection Friedkin compares the change with McDonald s getting hold of the nation Lucas claims that he and Spielberg understood what people liked to go see , but that just smells calculating as hell, not to mention that his claim that he destroyed the Hollywood film industry by making films intelligent is just complete and utter bullshit He even believed that the most important parts of a film are the first five minutes and the last twenty Everything in between is filler, and if there is enough action, no one will notice that the characters aren t particularly complex, or that the acting is wooden .The NH era was in a lot of ways wild, in good and in bad The BBS offices smelled of pot, most were in a democratic mood and ready to help in friends movies, everyone wanted to go to Peru to work with The Last Movie 1971 so that they could smuggle drugs back to L A., Hopper s drug problem caused the directors to make notes in the script what kind he could take in each scene, there were some directors with huge egos and some like Coppola were simply megalomaniac crazies, women who often contributed in some way to their men s films had to cope with their men acting like assholes and thinking the open relationships of the 70s gave permission for cheating Bert Schneider to Candice Bergen I m sorry it s so threatening to you, Bergen, but you have to understand that I m a love object for every woman who walks into my office Start dealing with that It s time you began growing up , on the set of One Flew Over the Cuckoo s Nest 1975 the actors were provided with pot as a kind of takeaway so that they wouldn t have to go to the street etc.We can all agree, though, that most films that resulted from this mayhem are good, and distinguishable as 70s and late 60s films Biskind says that after their recovery, studio executives are now mostly businessmen who are interested about commercialism and money Were now in a situation where it s difficult to brief an idea that doesn t promise huge profits Indie movies do find their audience, but compared to the blockbusters, their market is much smaller Star salaries are higher than ever New faces are easier to be pushed around, and when one of the greats got an opportunity to make a comeback, they resorted to a mainstream film and failed.Altman is not optimistic You get tired painting your pictures and going down to the street corner and selling them for a dollar You get the occasional Fargo, but you ve still got to make them for nothing, and you get nothing back It s disastrous for the film industry, disastrous for film art .Who knows what will happen in the future It s clear that we need all kinds of movies, and everyone has their own taste I still wish there were brave filmmakers who would get the opportunity to showcase their talents, no matter how wacky their ideas might be, and maintain their distinctive style through the years I also wish that the movie business would slow down their hunger for money and would actually stop and smell the flowers, and see the talent out there.Fortunately, these days we have our moments as well With the explosive Mad Max Fury Road 2015 Miller succeeded in lighting the screen on fire It was magical and different Ripped my guts out with its energy and beauty, and that s what I m personally looking for in a movie Godard showed that anything is possible, and even Lucas said that Emotionally involving the audience is easy Anybody can do it blindfolded, get a little kitten and have some guy wring its neck .


  6. says:

    My thoughts on Easy Riders, Raging Bulls can be summarized by two comparisons 1 Game Change Both books let gossip get in the way of solid storytelling Game Change would give paragraphs of great accounts of political strategy which is right in my wheelhouse then get sidetracked with anecdotes of how Elizabeth Edwards is a bitch, John Edwards is a dandy, and what Hilary Clinton wore at a particular campaign event Not all of it was completely useless, and some of it was quite fun, but it cheapened the value of the work in my mind Biskind s use of gossip is a bit justifiable One of the main themes of the book is the hubristic rise and fall of a generation of filmakers that rose to prominence in the 70s Tales of personal degradation fit into this And after all, it is Hollywood And if you want to read a tabloid like account of Tinsel Town in the 70s, I can recommend this But I was expecting, and Biskind tries to deliver, something different Which brings us to the second comparison.2 Pictures at a Revolution This comparison is unfair, Pictures is one of the best nonfiction books I ve ever read, but the comparison begs to be made The two books cover many of the same themes and feature many of the same figures and films And Pictures at a Revolution is better in every single way Pictures isn t just about how movies changed, its about how very root understandings of American culture changed and the effect the two revolutions had on each other It s a great story and a hella good read Mark Harris gives well known celebrities like Warren Beatty, Sidney Poitier, Mike Nichols and Rex Harrison into complex, and sometimes sympathetic characters In contrast, Biskind s portraits resemble stereotypical caricatures Beatty likes to fuck alot Gee, that Altman guy sure is surely Wow, Francis Ford Coppola is a prima donna Who would ve thought George Lucas was so antisocial Like Game Change this information can be intriguing and often fun.But it gets in the way of the movies Biskind doesn t do a great job of providing film analysis I think good writing about film should be like a great commentary track on DVDs Yeah, I like amusing anecdotes, but I want to hear about the film Harris writes about the movies, Biskind writes about people who makes the movies and the fucked up shit they do But this is supposed to be a review of Easy Rider, Raging Bull, so back on topic Two things in it s defense in light of the comparison 1 Biskind doesn t share identical goals with Mark Harris and 2 and Easy Rider, Ring Bull s scope is kinda broader than Pictures Biskind succeeds at certain levels He tells an entertaining story about a group of young, extremely creative people whoe were given the power to create and how they eventually self imploded But he doesn t saying much of any significance about the films of the 70s, which is why I picked up the book in the first place.


  7. says:

    The book had the potential to be awesome and interesting and really informative A lot of amazing movies were made in the 1970 s A lot of interesting things happened in Hollywood as to how movies were made, and the balances of power Picking up this book, that is what it alludes to be about It will talk about the New Hollywood directors Scorsese, Lucas, Spielberg, Coppola, etc etc, and what they did to movies, how they challenged the studio system, how they made some of their most famous movies When it s put like that, it sounds like a must read A backstage look at Hollywood and it s going s on at the time that Easy Rider, The Godfather, Jaws and Star Wars were being made That s what the book sets itself up to be, but that is not what it is about at all If you want to know how these movies got made, you probably need another book It starts off with grand ambitions but quickly devolves into badly structured and poorly written tabloid fodder about who was doing the most coke spoiler everyone but Spielberg or who was fucking people who weren t their significant others spoiler everyone Now I m all for a little gossip flavor, but that s literally all this book is The matters of actual substance in terms of how these movies got made and how they affected the industry play second fiddle to the drama the author makes a big deal of revealing He is so interested in the naughty activities of 1970 s Hollywood that he seems to have forgotten what he set out to do and focuses all his attention on tattle telling On top of the drivel he is producing in terms of material, the structure of the book is ridiculously atrocious As in, the only way it could be worse is if sentences started in the middle of each other It seems as if it might be intended as chronological order, but each chapter zips all around in time A typical chapter starts off talking about one subject, jumps to talking about something else which may or may not be happening at the same time, jumps back to the first subject, then to a third subject which may or may not be related to anything already mentioned in this chapter, jumps back to subject one, then subject three, then subject two, then three, then one, then an entirely new subject which goes on until the end of the chapter Trying to follow the author s train of thought is like trying to follow a dog s train of thought in a park full of squirrels Between the abrupt subject changes, and the tabloid take on the era, it s hard to pick up the actual information about the movies Since I m sure there have to be better written books about the same subject matter, I wouldn t recommend this to anyone Unless you happen to have masochistic tendencies.


  8. says:

    Sort of an overrated genre, but it was interesting reading about Rafelson and Schneider Also, plenty of good anecdotes about the interactions of all the others in the New Hollywood Could have gone into detail about Beatty and Fonda It didn t even mention Lilith, for example.


  9. says:

    Peter Biskind is a yenta The book is hefty with gossip of all kinds, which is too bad because he s talking about the revolution in films in the 60 s to early 80 s When he does talk about how the movies changed, both in cinematography, plot development, in every way, Biskind is insightful and intelligent, but he doesn t dwell on such matters for very long.Worse, you re reading along about one topic and suddenly there is a paragraph about another time or other people which you may vaguely recall his talking about elsewhere It seems as if he cuts and pastes as we all do , but when he cuts, he doesn t get all the paragraphs and leaves one behind Add to that his breezy habit of talking about Bob or whomever,but unfortunately, there are several Bobs and after the first 50 pages, when he mentions Bob you don t always know which one he meant Also, in the early pages, he says that Bob or someone married or lived with Toby or Polly or whomever He doesn t mention her name for 100 pages, and suddenly we are hearing about Toby or Polly or whomever doing something and we don t know who she is or whom she is with Has this guy ever heard about appositive clauses in subsequent mentions, you know, Bob, the one who funded X in 1969 or Polly, who was still married to I hate reading books that are like one big puzzle and you keep having to flip backwards to figure what in Hell is going on It s especially annoying when it s a subject I m especially interested in.


  10. says:

    Biskind s book disappointed me tremendously The author dwelled on bad behavior instead of providing key insights into film making It lacked social and historical context just passing mentions of Vietnam and the Manson killings, etc , despite the fact that the author must have done a tremendous amount of research Granted, a good portion of the players here are not admirable on a personal level, and some may even be irredeemable but the book never demonstrated, for me, a respect for the artistic process that resulted in ground breaking cinema.