Posts Tagged ‘Bonnie Bedelia’

Movie Moment — 12 Days of Highly Tolerable Holiday Movies: Die Hard

December 14, 2010

Die Hard (John McTiernan, 1988.)

New York cop John McClane gives terrorists a dose of their own medicine as they hold hostages in an LA office building.

(the imdb)

This was the first action movie I ever saw. The second was Total Recall. I watched them both on VHS on the same New Years’ Eve day with my cousins. Absolutely no action film has measured up for me, since. How could it? Even though it’s made most other action movies pale in comparison, I still wouldn’t trade those four-or-so hours for the world.

The movie is based on the book Nothing Lasts Forever by Roderick Thorp. Nothing Lasts Forever is a sequel to The Detective, which was made in to a film in 1968 with Frank Sinatra as Joe Leland, the McClane character’s original name. Originally, Nothing Lasts Forever was going to be adapted as a sequel to Commando (?!), but after hanging out in development hell for awhile, it was repackaged as a sequel to The Detective, and then eventually tooled as a standalone picture.

In 1975, author Roderick Thorp saw the film The Towering Inferno. After seeing the film, Thorp had a dream of seeing a man being chased through a building by men with guns. He woke up and took that idea and turned it into the The Detective sequel, Nothing Lasts Forever.

(the wiki)

Best. Absolutely best.

In the source material, it is not his wife but McClane’s daughter Steffie Generro (not Genarro) who is in the building, which is the Klaxon Oil Company national headquarters. Also, instead of posing as terrorists while really planning a good old-fashioned heist, Gruber and co. in the book really are terrorists. They are specifically members of the Rote Armee Fraktion, or Red Army Faction (sometimes called the Baader-Meinhof group), a German terrorist organization of the 1970s through 1990s.

The change from Gruber’s group being legit RAF terrorists to only using terrorism as a smokescreen for their intended purpose, director John McTiernan says, came because he wanted the film to be lighter and have “joy” rather than dark political overtones.

Taped to the fuse box is a pinup of Pamela Stein, Playboy’s Miss November 1987. The crew stuck it up there as a joke and Willis’s reaction to it is allegedly the real deal, so the choice was made to leave it in. For more on Ms. Stein, she was an entry in my NSFW November project of 2009: read all about it.

William Atherton does what he does best in this movie: play an asshole. In this case he’s reporter Richard Thornburg. The king douche from Ghostbusters lays it on thick, even going to Holly’s house and telling the McClane children that their parents are going to die. Do they have any last words they’d like to share with them? Small wonder that the first thing Holly does when she sees the aptly named Dick is punch him.

If someone told my kid I was going to die and asked her what her thoughts on that were, they’d better consider themselves lucky if, once I got out of danger, I restrained myself to just a punch in the face.

The “yippie kai yay” phrase is a reference to the theme music for Roy Rogers, who McClane tells Gruber was his preferred screen idol growing up, in the face of Gruber’s disdain for McClane’s lone wolf heroics. The line made it in to the AFI’s top 100 list, coming in at 96 on the 100 Greatest Movie Lines of all time.

The contact info for the Nakatomi building is actually the numbers (at the time) for Fox Plaza, where the film was shot. The extended cut of the film also contains a short scene which explains a plothole: the FBI tries to cut power to the building once they take over the “terrorist” negotiations. In the extended cut, McClane, hiding in the men’s bathroom, asks Al what’s going on and he explains that the FBI is in charge now and it’s part of their operating procedures.

The building’s power getting cut does not work according to Gruber’s plans. He’d hoped that the power being out would help him to crack the seventh and final lock for the safe (remember, earlier on Theo had warned Gruber that the circuit for the final lock could not be severed locally, precisely to prevent their kind of activity); deciding to go back to the drawing board, Gruber has computer whiz kid Theo connect to the emergency power supply. This is why when the power comes back on without this short backstory in the theatrical cut, the first thing we see is an FBI agent, and it’s why later the FBI takes out the power to the whole block instead of only the Nakatomi building, which does deactivate the seventh lock mechanism.

The “yippie kai yay” line isn’t the only American Film Institute keeper: Hans Gruber was listed as #46 on their 100 Years, 100 Villains list. What is it with the AFI and lists? Pretty soon it’ll be all like, “The AFI’s 10 Greatest AFI lists,” and the special will show famous actors and directors somberly describing the first time they accidentally stumbled on a televised broadcast of the 100 Best Movie Songs and couldn’t find the remote, so they watched it all.

The filmmakers introduce a gratuitous and unnecessary additional character: the deputy police chief (Paul Gleason), who doubts that the guy on the other end of the radio is really a New York cop at all.

(Roger Ebert. “Die Hard.” July 19, 1988. Chicago Sun-Times. He only gave the movie two stars.)

As nearly as I can tell, the deputy chief is in the movie for only one purpose: to be consistently wrong at every step of the way and to provide a phony counterpoint to Willis’ progress. The character is so willfully useless, so dumb, so much a product of the Idiot Plot Syndrome, that all by himself he successfully undermines the last half of the movie.


Entertainment Weekly named this the best action film of all time, showing those uptight pinky-raisers at the AFI that anyone can make an arbitrary list. What do you call my 12 Days of Highly Tolerable Holiday Movies? Completely made up is what I call it, because I’m the one who sat down and made it up.

Gruber being dropped because McClane unfastens Holly’s watch totally stuck with me for life. I’m not saying that it is singlehandedly responsible for my vertigo, but it’s on my arbitrary list of suspects (running gag alert). Some of that surprise is genuine: director McTiernan had Alan Rickman dropped a full second early in the count in order to capture an expression of truly spontaneous shock and fear. Worked.

To wind things down with the dewy promise of what’s-to-come, I’ve got super-great news for anyone who likes news that is super and great: a fifth Die Hard film is in the works, with Willis attached, and shooting is expected to begin in 2011. Personally, I liked Die Hard With A Vengeance best of the sequels, but I would not kick Live Free or Die Hard out of bed. Your thoughts?

Weekend warrior friendohs, and a brief bookfoolery follow-up edition

February 22, 2010

Gorgeous George and Corinnette on our way to find undiscovered country.

Had a great weekend up in the great white woods with the fabulous friendohs, other than the kidlet being wretchedly sick; if she dies of double-pneumonia-screaming-meemies-and-bad-hair (very common and tragic disease) it is sure to be my fault for falling prey to her “I’ll be fine, Mommy, please please please let me go to the snow!” baloney sauce and not just keeping her home like I ought to have. The only component missing that would’ve made the weekend even more perfect were Paolo and Miss D, who’d sadly decided, with greater wisdom than the kidlet and me, to stay home so Paolo did not compound his cold. We are hoping to do a follow-up trip in the Spring and I can’t wait for them to come along and appear in my annoyingly copious pictures (my friends are kindly tolerant of my photographic shenanigans, but I’m very lucky they’ve never seized the camera and thrown it off a cliff).

Did You Know? This beautiful child is actually a festering harbinger of plague and germs that can singlehandedly fell a houseful of hale and hearty adults in Just Two Days. “Think I’m cute, do you? Enjoy the bronchitis, suckaaaas!”

Poor Corinnette, who rode with me and Gorgeous George and the kidlet, was probably sick to death by Sunday night of Elvis, which we bumped in the car nearly the whole weekend, partly because we’re both huge fans and partly because Gorgeous George was the driver which left me as the passenger with way too much time to look over cliffs and dread death at the hands of unknown reckless drivers (I trust Geo implicitly: it is those loose cannon other sons-of-bitches that I fear will careen around a corner and cost me my child’s life), so we played tunes that I could stare out the window and sing “Little Sister” and “Don’t Be Cruel,” along to, giving me something familiar to focus on rather than hairpin turns and speeding Subarus.

Elvis Presley and Sophia Loren clowning around. I am telling you this because though talented they are virtually complete unknowns of whom you have probably never heard.

At one point along Highway 140, when we were on a straightaway and I was feeling less Nervous Nellie —had my eyes open and everything! just like a big girl!— I remarked to Geo, “Elvis Presley really was a great performer. It’s too bad he wasn’t more popular,” which we thought was hysterical.

Gorgeous George’s wonderful parents were as wonderful as they always are, and Saturday night, after playing word games and bullshitting over beers and barbeque for a few hours, Pam-tastic and Senior (Geo’s folks) screened this nothing-less-than-cool-as-shit movie for us about the early career of Shirley Muldowney that seriously revved me up.

Still from Heart Like A Wheel (Jonathan Kaplan, 1983), starring Bonnie Bedelia and Beau Bridges as Shirley Muldowney and Connie Kalitta. Anthony Edwards (pictured) plays her grown son, who is on her pit crew. It’s a really great, great movie. I sat next to Pam-tastic, who had posters of Shirley all over the den we were watching the movie in, and she filled me in on extra details while we watched. Amazing experience. They’re so great.

Shirley Muldowney was the first NHRA female champion drag racer; her struggle was totally engrossing, and a story I’d never even heard of, which I love finding out about all new shit when it comes to deeply detailed sports, and for it to be a lady driving fast on top of it just sealed the deal. I am going to try to find more screencaps and factoids to share more about her in the coming days. Pam and George even know her. They are rad. Kick ass, I’m serious. Best in the West!

Lo-Bo and the Gentleman when we’d finally stopped trekking past protected meadows (normally I’m all in favor of those but cheese-and-rice, I had a sick kid and it was really coming down; it was a great relief to stop walking). They are watching Corinnette gather the materials needed to demolish the Great Dane’s mini-snowman. All respect due to Niels and his snowman, I need to say that for being built by an engineer, that thing sure went down like a bitch.

As a follow-up to my last entry before leaving town, on the bookfoolery front: I took neither Vonnegut short stories in the wake of Jonohs’s novel-loans nor Panda’s much-maligned copy of Oates’ Zombie up with me to read while on our weekend Yosemite retreat. (Although I did let kidlet bring her comic book, and I did not at any point attempt to swipe it: I can be taught!)

l to r: Corinnette, the Great Dane, and Michelle-my-belle at the lea, watching Gorgeous George destroy the snowman.

I realized the only logical choice to take for a trip to the snowy woods with friends was a book about a trip to the snowy woods with friends: Dreamcatcher, by Stephen King. It was perfect to sink in to bed at night and re-live the highs and lows of that admirable group of old friends after spending the day having so much fun with my own.

I really dearly love every one of the four lead characters in Dreamcatcher and will happily tell you all about why I think they are some of the best and most shining examples of King’s already-wonderful pantheon of character creations if we are ever stuck on a tarmac at the end of a runway while they repeatedly de-ice our plane; lord, how a real estate secretary from Miami wishes this were just a random example of a situation and not pulled directly from my real life.

Jonesy and the Beav (Damian Lewis and Jason Lee) attempt to hail a helicopter in Dreamcatcher (Lawrence Kasdan, 2003). This movie is jam-crack-packed with hot men bein’ hot. And nice and brave and heroic. Great book, great flick.

Anyway, snow and friends in the novel. Snow and friends in my life. Synchronicity. Except we did not encounter aliens. That I remember. Moving along, the free time I have today while watching my little sicklet means I have almost no choice but to pass the time between making her food and giving her cold medicine by finally crack-a-lacking on posting up the undone Valentine Vixens. Come sail with me. HMS Sexytimes, ahoy!