Tag Archives: Michael Murphy

The Set of 400: #8 – My Favorite School Bus Graveyard

Today! Because there’s gonna be nothing left in our graves except Clorox bottles and plastic fly swatters with red dots on ’em –

 

Nashville (1975)

Directed by Robert Altman (x5)

Starring Lily Tomlin (x3), Ned Beatty (x6), Michael Murphy (x7), Henry Gibson (x6), Keenan Wynn, Barbara Harris (x2), Shelley Duvall (x5), Keith Carradine, Ronee Blakley, Geraldine Chaplin (x2), Scott Glenn (x4), Jeff Goldblum (x7), Gwen Welles, Karen Black (x3), David Arkin (x3), Allan F. Nichols (x3), Cristina Raines, Bert Remsen (x4), Allen Garfield (x2), Robert DoQui, Barbara Baxley, Timothy Brown (x2), David Hayward, Dave Peel, Merle Kilgore, Elliott Gould (x4), Julie Christie

The last movie appearing on this list that isn’t my favorite of that given year (tune back in tomorrow for Fav ’75!), Nashville is something that has taken the better part of two decades to grow on me. The first time I saw any bit of it was in college – I was taking some half-assed screenwriting course at Keystone, and they would show illustrative clips along with the written pages, and the scene we watched was Sueleen Gay’s disastrous appearance singing at the gentleman’s club. While it might not make a ton of sense in a screenwriting class on the surface, figure, like most Altmans of the time the movie is improv heavy, so Joan Tewkesbury’s script was more filled with character beats and guideposts than concrete dialogue and heavily plotted scenes. Sueleen’s public singing debut, however, is relatively light on dialogue and heavy on doom, so it’s actually not a bad moment to highlight!

“I Never Get Enough”

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The Set of 400: #87 – My Favorite Planetarium Date

Today! Because not everybody gets corrupted. You have to have a little faith in people –

Manhattan (1979)

Directed by Woody Allen (x11)

Starring Woody Allen (x8), Diane Keaton (x3), Michael Murphy (x6), Mariel Hemingway (x2), Meryl Streep (x2), Anne Byrne, Michael O’Donoghue, Wallace Shawn (x6), Karen Allen (x3), David Rasche (x3), Mark Linn-Baker (x2), Frances Conroy, Charles Levin, Karen Ludwig

Well, here we are again, folks. The 11th – eleventh! – Woody Allen movie on the list. When I was first putting this thing together, compiling a long list to select from, I didn’t really pay attention to things like how many movies from so-and-so made it, how many movies from what year, etc. That shouldn’t matter when just straight evaluating what your favorites are – but the fact that this is the second-to-last Allen film here at #87 leads me to believe that I probably packed too many of his films in the far reaches of this list. Not only is he far and away the most frequent director as of today, he also is now tied for the most frequent actor, hitting number eight today. And, while I firmly believe this is one of his two or three best movies, it’s also the creepiest, by way of foreshadowing his real life.

This isn’t something that is overly prevalent in Woody’s films as time went on. Sure, there are a lot of films where older men are romantically involved with far younger women, but come on, this is Hollywood! It’s hardly an exclusive problem to this filmmaker. But considering the first round of scandalous issues Woody ran into, this movie stands out as the stark example of his perhaps icky predilections. Mariel Hemingway is, like, really young in this movie – her character is still in high school and all of seventeen, as they are quick to repeat throughout. And it all works for the movie – this isn’t just an indictment of this version of Woody’s writer character – but in retrospect, well, it’s a little glaring.

Sure, she’s seventeen, but she looks fucking twelve

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The Set of 400: #125 – My Favorite Astrodome Circus

Today! Because he may posture, so as to reveal his gaudiest nuptial plumage, spread his tail and erect his crest or inflate brilliantly colored pouches or parade, dance, fly with dizzying acrobatics, sing his most fetching love song –

Brewster McCloud (1970)

Directed by Robert Altman (x4)

Starring Bud Cort (x4), Sally Kellerman (x3), Shelley Duvall (x2), Michael Murphy (x5), Rene Auberjonois (x3), John Schuck (x3), Stacy Keach, William Windom, Margaret Hamilton (x2), Jennifer Salt, Bert Remsen (x3), G. Wood, Corey Fischer

In going through a big tear of Robert Altman movies a few years ago – upon realizing that while I’d seen his most acclaimed movies, he made a ton of other films ranging from well regarded to strongly recommended curiosities – I finally tracked down a copy of what I remembered vividly from video stores when I was a kid. I always confused the title with a western – I’m guessing John Wayne’s McLintock or the Dennis Weaver TV show McCloud – but the tape cover was as above – this kid flying inside a dome, and it always stuck with me. And so began my love affair with the wholly original – even inside the Altman canon – Brewster McCloud.

Cort and Duvall are typically wonderful

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The Set of 400: #205 – My Favorite Microwaved Spray Paint

Today! Because mistletoe can be deadly if you eat it –

Batman Returns (1992)

Directed by Tim Burton (x3)

Starring Michael Keaton (x3), Michelle Pfeiffer, Danny DeVito (x4), Christopher Walken, Michael Gough (x2), Michael Murphy (x4), Pat Hingle (x2), Vincent Schiavelli (x4), Andrew Bryniarski, Jan Hooks (x2), Steve Witting, Paul Reubens (x3), Cristi Conaway

A superhero outing aggressively not holding up, Batman Returns was basically my favorite movie when I was 12 years old. I’d been waiting three years for the next Bat-adventure, and where this manner of suspense might raise expectations far higher than a film could reach nowadays, back then it just functioned as a way to excuse a lot of their choices. We finally had another Keaton/Burton Bat-flick! And it had the Penguin! And Catwoman! And…Christopher Walken in a ridiculous wig!

And style-wise, it’s still a pretty cool movie. Between the Christmas setting, the weirder, twistier sets than the first movie, Michelle Pfeiffer’s super dramatic eye makeup, and a marked increase in the Tim Burton-ness of the design, it’s a sequel that takes off in bizarre other directions, while still maintaining the overall gloom and moodiness set in place by the original.

Maybe it’s not so much the make up as all the time spent on that hair!

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The Set of 400: #217 – My Favorite Adult Braces

Today! Because it’s not going to stop/’Til you wise up –

Magnolia (1999)

Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (x4)

Starring Tom Cruise (x3), Philip Seymour Hoffman (x4), Julianne Moore, John C. Reilly (x4), William H. Macy, Jason Robards (x2), Melora Walters, Ricky Jay, Alfred Molina (x3), Felicity Huffman, Melinda Dillon (x2), Luis Guzman (x3), Philip Baker Hall (x3), Thomas Jane (x2), Michael Murphy (x3), Henry Gibson (x3), Neil Flynn (x2), Patton Oswalt, Jim Meskimen (x2), Jeremy Blackman, Michael Bowen, Cleo King, Clark Gregg (x3)

Like many people, my initial reaction to Magnolia was that I had a problem with the ending. For everything else going on in this movie – and there is a ton going on here – the natural takeaway, as it is the climax of the movie, is “What the hell is all this with the frogs now?” But, come on, how else was it going to end? Isn’t it obvious that the solution to all the crazy pent up drama is for the sky to open up and drench the city in biblically apocalyptic frogs? No?

I mean, this kid seemed to dig it

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The Set of 400: #270 – My Favorite Ghost Writers

Today! Because I don’t recognize the right of this committee to ask me these kind of questions. And furthermore, you can all go fuck yourselves –

The Front (1976)

Directed by Martin Ritt

Starring Woody Allen (x3), Zero Mostel (x2), Herschel Bernardi, Michael Murphy (x2), David Margulies, Charles Kimbrough, Andrea Marcovicci, Lloyd Gough, Danny Aiello, Remak Ramsay, Marvin Lichterman, Joshua Shelley

A markedly serious film despite the starring comedians, The Front features Woody Allen in a non-Woody Allen movie, and a drama at that (an extreme rarity), playing a cashier roped in by blacklisted writer friends to submit television scripts on their behalf, to enable them to keep earning, in the McCarthy Communist witch hunt of the early 1950s. And while there are funny bits here and there, the film attempts to explore the subject more or less straight, to devastating effect.

But people have had some tonal problems with the movie over the years – the television programs are largely comedies, and Zero’s Hecky Brown, in attempts to keep making money, does continue to perform live comedy acts. Because of this, some take issue with The Front for not taking the whole matter more seriously, but without this – I propose – you’d end up with Guilty by Suspicion, which is a fine movie in its own way, but a touch too unbearable and infuriating (and equivocating in its message and source facts). The Front works all the better because of the lighter moments – the sad clown is almost always going to be a more impactful character.

Zero!

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The Set of 400: #396 – My Favorite Southeast Asian Driving Range

Today! Because if I nail Hot Lips and punch Hawkeye, can I go home too?

MASH (1970)

Directed by Robert Altman

Starring Donald Sutherland, Elliott Gould, Sally Kellerman, Robert Duvall, Tom Skerritt, Rene Auberjonois, David Arkin, John Schuck, Gary Burghoff, Jo Ann Pflug, Roger Bowen, Fred Williamson, Bud Cort, Michael Murphy, Timothy Brown, Carl Gottlieb, Bobby Troup

For the longest time, the beginning and end of my interest in the entire MASH franchise was the play. Like the movie, it is based on the book by Richard Hooker, but except for the same basic plot and characters – football game and all – it shares few real similarities. The TV show is even further afield, again with the same characters, but even less like the play, movie, or book. All have different tones, different dialogue, and different interactions among the primaries. I was in the play my junior year of high school, having never really watched the show, and was pretty dismissive of the film at the time. I was Hawkeye, by the way, and I think it was a pretty decent show, as far as a high school production of a very adult war satire could be.

Not sure why the play pictures I have are in black and white, but here’s young me to the right, with pals young Phil and young Munchak

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