As a follow-up to my previous Alien Resurrection post, let me report that I am sitting here listening to the director's audio commentary. (Don't worry that I'm wasting my time. I'm multitasking. I'm also reading blogs.) And apparently the shot was real. As Jean-Pierre Jeunet puts it: "Seegournay Wayver, you know, vaz so proud, to do evryzing hairself, she vanted absolutely to put ze ball inside ze basketball wizzout ze special effects. And I vas vary warried about zat because, OK, ve are going to make ze 200 takes." As the digital guy then explains, a little more clearly: "This shot was supposed to be digital, of course, because what Jean-Pierre wanted was to make an impossible throw. And Sigourney did it for real." How many takes? Six takes. So now you know. And: "I feel that something was weird in her eyes. And she made it." So take that, David "We're not even sure now whether a movie star is walking, talking or giving us the eye all on her own" Thomson.
But it's still completely silly to call your DVD collection the Alien Quadrilogy. Honestly.
Oh, and I listened to Ridley Scott's audio commentary for the original Alien a couple nights ago. Did you know that in the scene in which Ash [Ian Holm - it turns out he's a robot] dissects the facehugger, it's just a plastic model with a very large oyster floating on top. No kidding. Just look at it. It's an oyster he's prodding. Fascinating stuff.
Award for the least insightful comment goes to the castmember whose chest exploded in the movie: "Hello, my name is John Hurt, I play Kane - Oh, here we are."
Ridley Scott on building the interiors of the Nostromo: "So here we are inside our retroindustrial corridors, which were fundamentally made up of remains of aircraft we found in aircraft graveyards. None of the things we could really afford - vacuum molding or presses or anything like that. Therefore a lot of the stuff was found and then assembled like sculpture and then painted and then joined together with nicely designed door architraves and polystyrene and sprayed to look like plastic. I was very conscious of the set and the condition of the set and whether it'd look aged enough."
But this line pretty much sums it up: "If you think about it carefully it doesn't make sense, but I think we got away with it."
On the whole, much higher quality audio commentary than I got listening to the Val Kilmer commentary on Spartan. I was trying to figure out what went wrong. I transcribed this bit; it seemed odd.
Val: [On David Mamet] His precision requires a kind of concentration where there's a very particular rhythm, like poetry. When a good actor reads poetry, you're not really aware of the scanning, you're more involved with the rhythm that the author intends, and the ideas that it promotes. And that's David's style. He writes in a lot of particular and sometimes complicated rhythms. It's why it's so frustrating when he cuts some of the good stuff. Messes up his own rhythm. I don't understand it. Except that I know he needs help.
Some of the poetry in question. (Sigh. What's happened to Mamet that he is churning out this dreck?)
Scott : What they gotcha teachin' here, young sergeant?
Jackie : Edged weapons, sir. Knife fighting.
Scott : Don't you teach 'em knife fighting. Teach 'em to kill. That way, they meet some sonofabitch who studied knife fighting, they send his soul to hell.
Scott : You're gonna leave your life or you're gonna leave the information in this room.
Scott : In the city there is always a refelection, in the woods always a sound.
Curtis : What about the desert?
Scott : You don't wanna go to the desert.
Scott : You wanted to go through the looking glass. How was it? Was it more fun than miniature golf?
More from Val Kilmer (on Scott, his rough, tough character):
There's a kind of poise to these guys that's really inspiring. And they go from what feels almost like a monk kind of neutral, and there's nothing going on in their mind, and they go from this sort of state of peace to 110 miles an hour, in an hour. And they're moving so fast with these actions it's hard to describe the action because I don't want to give away the story as we're watching. Maybe this is the second time you've seen it. If you're listening to this and you're watching the film for the first time - you're really strange.
And, again on Mamet's peculiarities:
He's also a fantastic liar. If he doesn't have the answer, he just vamps better than anyone. Oh, sure blah blah blah and then all of a sudden it's an hour later and you're doing the lines that he wrote and he didn't change and somehow he got you thinkin' it was OK and it all made sense but he, I'm pretty convinced, takes a lot of this from his children. I'm pretty sure he goes home and goes through a lot of the story - I know for sure with his daughter, and she's brilliant - and - he's a thief. And that's really the vamping because he doesn't know if it's past her bedtime; like this scene took place over several nights in Boston. And she was asleep. And so David got confused and exposed - the, uh, hack.
Isn't that interesting? I, for one, am glad someone put a microphone in front of Val Kilmer and just let him semi-ironically free-associate and meander for 90 minutes. I love DVD audio commentaries. I put them on in the background and only tune in when something interesting happens. I even listened to the first 10 minutes of the director's commentary on American Pie 2 before I came to my senses. (I think I was just so excited that Singapore has lightened up to the point where I can rent the unrated version at my local video store. Yes, I can. I wanted to experience all the joy.)
Some people don't seem to see it that way. But I think they're wrong. What do you think? I do admit that the commentaries that exist are often substandard and uncritical of the movies in question. Just chat and gossip. Which is fine, up to a point. But there could be so much more. Ebert's audio commentary for Dark City is very good, for example. But I am very glad that the ones we have exist. On average, each 90 minute stretch of inconsequential babble contains some nugget I would wish to have preserved for posterity. So it's like documentary footage.
It seems this is the sort of thing that someone could produce freelance, if they had smart thoughts. An MP3 that you play along with the movie, containing worthwhile reflections, etc. etc. At the very least there ought to be a crop of home-brew "Mystery Science Theatre 3000" MP3's, containing mercilessly snarky criticism. Shouldn't there?
Oh, I like this scene. I think I'll stop typing now.