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Johnny LaRue's Crane Shot
Saturday, May 20, 2006
SHARKY follow-up
Thanks to Jim Kenney for chiming in with his views of SHARKY’S MACHINE. Jim says:

SHARKY'S MACHINE is one of my all-time faves, and I too tracked down the R4 SHARKY'S MACHINE, which looks to me to be the full-frame version slightly squished w/ black bars put around it...I don't see any additional footage in any direction when I compare, do you ? (Or did you bother? I only note because your "close enough anyway" infers you weren't fully happy with the framing).

No, I wasn’t, and I think you’re right about it being squished. I don’t have the R1 to compare it with (I’ve been waiting for a Special Edition forever), but SHARKY’s aspect ratio is supposed to be 1.85 and the DVD image was off a bit. However, there didn’t appear to be anything missing off the sides, so the DVD could have been worse.

I affectionately disagree, though, which much else you say -- it's all those "pace-flagging" well-acted cop conversations that move this movie out of simple policier-territory into something more unique and memorable.

I like this stuff better than I let on, I think. A lot of these scenes are really good: one between Burt and Casey (all one stationary shot) where Bernie explains Zen; Keith bitching to Casey that he doesn’t “like ribs, don’t like chicken, don’t like hamburgers, you don’t like anything good”; a very well directed scene at the ballpark where Reynolds gets about seven characters together in the frame and has Durning walk back and forth to add some movement (and levity--”I DON’T GIVE A FUCK!”) to the expositional dialogue. I still think the pacing flags in the middle though. One more chase or five fewer minutes of Reynolds gazing at Dominoe might have fixed that.

And the initial ninja sequence for me was the worst in the movie, although the follow-up scene with the finger-cutting is another great one, and Reynolds escape sequence good too (although the Ninja's slight nod to Burt, a la "you have earned my respect" when he dies was a bit of Burt's ego acting up again).

I think Burt fighting the ninjas is one of the movie’s better setpieces. It’s a brutal fight choreographed well, and even though the notion of Chinese kung fu masters entering a relatively straightforward urban crime drama is over the top (I don’t remember if they were in the novel), Reynolds plays it fairly realistically. Sharky isn’t a superman, and even though he gets his licks in, the fight ends as it logically should. The follow-up scene is good, even though it doesn’t make any sense to me that the “asshole” should all of a sudden be Vittorio Gassman’s right-hand man. How the hell did that happen? In fact, there’s a lot about the narrative that doesn’t make much sense.

For me, it's a masterpiece of sorts, and started Reynolds 2nd decade as a superstar off on the right note -- it's still amazing how he quickly squandered both his money-making abilities and the critical goodwill he built up with this, STARTING OVER, SEMI-TOUGH and others so quickly

Well, Burt did fire the agent who got him the BOOGIE NIGHTS gig, not realizing that he was actually in a great movie for a change. In fact, it’s one of the two or three best films Reynolds ever did (and the only one to get him nominated for an Oscar).

Posted by Marty at 12:09 AM CDT
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Saturday, May 20, 2006 - 6:24 AM CDT

Name: Jim Kenney

Well, if we can't have a full, no-holds-barred Burt conversation here, where are we gonna have it, I ask?

1st, I think that's the problem with the SHARKY disc -- I think the U.S. release might be an open-matte release -- i.e., we're not missing any image, they would just matte bars on the top for the 1:185 version. The reason I doubly think this is the Region 4 version indeed has identical picture image despite the bars (nothing added, but nothing lost either) -- which makes me think it's simply squished, which I realize is a non-technical term -- I'm going to try to check again this weekend..

Yes, Burt sometimes seemes his own worst enemey, although the gods don't seem so happy with him all the time, either. I really like Peter Bogdanovich, and think NICKELODEON is a terrific film and thing AT LONG LAST LOVE is flawed but quite interesting (a precursor to Woody's EVERYONE SAYS I LOVE YOU, which didn't receive any vitriol at all), and Burt willingly threw himself into those parts and showed comic range and charm -- and got caught up in the tideswell of anti-Bogdanovich vitriol flying (some of it deserved, thanks to his unctous "I am a film critic nerd who got Cybil Shepard" vibe he was giving off) -- although all the hateful reviews generally pointed out that Reynolds was pretty good.

But those, LUCKY LADY (which does stink), and ROUGH CUT were some of the many attempts he made to do classy projects that fell dead, leaving him as a high profile target. I mean, HEAT was supposed to be a Goldman script and a Robert Altman-directed film -- Altman makes a lot of bad films, but he ain't Dick Richards, and actors rarely get blamed for his messes! But when Richards stinks, it's Burt who gets the blame.

So, anyway, Reynolds was very neurotic about BOOGIE NIGHTS, but he wouldn't be the first neurotic actor -- but when it scored for him, I had hoped for better -- stuff like MYSTIC ALASKA and THE CREW I have no use for, but at least they were reputable studio product; but the HARD TIME series for TNT, where he directed the 1st movie, struck me as suicide. His first high-profile directing effort since STICK, seemingly in the vein of SHARKY'S MACHINE, is atrocious! Did you catch it? (Forget the sequels, which were even worse).

And THE LAST PRODUCER/FINAL HIT/whatever it's been retititled this week, is another self-directed disaster.

What I'm getting at is we can blame Burt for a lot of his crap, whether its lousy 1990s tv flicks or Southern-fried corn like STROKER ACE, but it seems again and again when he did attempt to show range, a la AT LONG LAST or CITY HEAT (orginally to be directed by Blake Edwards) he got poked in the eye as well. Is it too late for SHARKY 2? Bernie Casey and Durning are still around, and hell, maybe Henry Silva landed on an awning!

With Burt still talking about a DELIVERANCE 2 at least after BOOGIE NIGHTS, it probably wouldn't be that hard to get him on board!

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