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Bruno Kirby’s career was made up of mostly supporting roles. He was almost never the lead, nor did he ever have to carry an entire motion picture on his spry Italian shoulders. Instead, he was the perfect partner, a flashy fireplug who used his passion and his presence to match up flawlessly with his usually more famous co-stars. His death on 14, August 2006 at a mere 57 years of age (after a battle with leukemia) marked the end of a still strong, still vital acting career. Easily moving between crazy comedy and intense drama, Kirby’s credits were varied, and always interesting. It argued for his versatility as a performer, as well as his no nonsense upbringing – a philosophy that emphasized the work, not the size of the dressing room or the number of lines.
Born 28 April, 1949 in New York City, Bruno Giovanni Quidaciolu Jr. was the son of famed character actor Bruce Kirby. His childhood on the outskirts of the greatest city in the world left a lasting impression on both his personality and his voice. Gifted with that hilarious honk that highlighted a certain ethnicity and spirit, Bruno would parlay his heritage into an amazingly diverse creative canon. Starting out while in his early 20’s Bruno made notable appearances in TV shows like MASH, and in movies like Cinderella Liberty. While on the set of the 1972 sitcom The Super, Bruno would become friends with co-star Richard S. Costello. It was an auspicious combination, as the rotund Italian American character actor was just about to become famous as Clemenza, Vito Corleone’s right hand muscle in that year’s masterpiece The Godfather. When Francis Ford Coppola was looking for someone to play the larger than life figure as a young man, thoughts immediately turned to Bruno, and soon, the relative novice found himself working alongside eventual Oscar winner (for his supporting work as the young Vito) Robert DeNiro in the equally epic sequel.
It was a sign of good things to come. Bruno parlayed the part into a series of sensational supporting turns. He was Marty Lewis, the fictitious version of Rolling Stone editor Jann Wenner opposite Bill Murray in Where the Buffalo Roam (1980). He was Albert Brooks’ best friend in Modern Romance (1981) and was extremely memorable as the Frank Sinatra loving chauffer mandated to drive the unappreciative Spinal Tap around in that famous 1984 mockumentary. As he got older, he started splitting his time between comedy, and more serious, dramatic fare. He was the by the book antagonist to Robin Williams free-spirited DJ in Good Morning, Vietnam, and costarred as the cynical pal of Billy Crystal in two extremely popular mainstream comedies – 1989’s When Harry Met Sally and 1991’s City Slickers. He even reconnected with his Godfather roots, starring opposite the legendary Marlon Brando in the mobster spoof The Freshman (1990).
Throughout the ‘90s, Bruno continued to excel in parts that combined his Mediterranean heritage with his genial, almost goofy, good nature. From Nicky (opposite another Corleone, Al Pacino) in Donnie Brasco to a pair of performances as leading attorneys in two of the nation’s most famous landmark trials - he was Barry Sheck of OJ fame in 2000’s American Tragedy, and Vince Bugliosi in the 2004 remake of Helter Skelter - he remained ever sharp, always careful to be both true and interpretive of the people he was playing. Most recently, he was part of the exciting ensemble that makes Entourage one of HBO’s most popular satiric series. Unfortunately, he was already aware of his circumstances. When he learned of his illness a few months ago, Bruno swore he would battle until the end. Sadly, the conclusion came far too soon for such a tremendously talented man. While his career may have been made up of moments, it will be the overall oeuvre that forever defines the amazing Bruno Kirby.
From the User’s Guide to Indian Films Intro
The movies described in the User’s Guide are the hit list of Indian cinema. They’re not only the best films of all time, but they give you the best glimpse of what Indians enjoy, their sense of tragedy and comedy, their aspirations, their regrets. In short, it’s a visual chronicle of Indian society in the last fifty years. Enjoy.
Week 3: Mother India
1957, Color, Hindi.
Dir: Mehboob Khan
Mother India is Pather Panchali’s commercial counterpart: a sweeping epic about a poor, beautiful village woman struggling to raise her crops and feed her family. A box-office blockbuster in its day. Mother India is a mélange of Sounder and The Grapes of Wrath. The movie, an ode to the hordes of rural laborers who make up the backbone of the economy, was a matter of pride for post-Independence-Nehru India and became the first Indian film to be nominated for an Academy Award. The film’s socialist director, Mehboob Khan, used the narrative as a platform to advocate the central beliefs of his party. Forty years later, in an India fat with success, the leftist ideals of Mother India seem dated. But only ten years before its release, the partition of Pakistan sparked a series of devastating communal riots across the subcontinent, leading to the murder of thousands of Hindus and Muslims. It seemed that in a country obsessed with belief, the only way for its disparate peoples to survive alongside one another was without religion - organized religion, that is. Faith as a primal vehicle for life and ritual is very much alive in Mother India, and the visual symbols and references to Hindu mythology and practice is what gives the film its raw, emotional power: the eternal wheel of life echoed in the roll of the plough from the beleaguered oxen, as well as the film’s title, the nation embodied as Mother, the pagan sacred goddess of life and death, articulated with quivering intensity by the film’s radiant star, Nargis.
From what we hear, Kevin Smith acquitted himself nicely during his stint as Roger Ebert’s film critic subsitute. Until we can get some more information, here’s a look at the promotion clip run during the week of Smith’s appearance. Big thanks to YouTube for the clip.
It’s another uninspired week in the DVD aisles, with lots of lame product taking up valuable merchandising space. Certainly, if you’re interested in the latest installment of the dragged out Simpsons’ release schedule (we are now up to season EIGHT) or some less than stellar box set collections of “classic” films by Hollywood stalwarts like Clark Cable, Jimmy Stewart and Ronald Regan, there’s very little of note. Instead, there’s another digital variation on a seminal ‘70s classic, two offerings by one of Italian horror’s most recognized auteurs, an unusual biography, a sloppy send-up, a flat family film, and a compendium of masterworks from an important French artist. Together, they make a deliciously diverse set of possible purchase options. The selections that SE&L’s thinks may or may not tickle your filmic fancy for August 15 are, in alphabetical order:
Apocalypse Now: The Complete Dossier*
Or, actually, the “incomplete” dossier. Still MIA in this otherwise stellar presentation of Francis Ford Coppola’s Vietnam via Joseph Conrad masterwork is the equally sublime Hearts of Darkness documentary. Said warts and all look at the production, featuring audio recordings of the filmmaker’s frequent meltdowns, has long been rumored to be part of a comprehensive Apocalypse package. Its absence here continues to fuel speculation that Coppola no longer appreciates the film’s portrait of him as director/demagogue. Thankfully, we have both versions of the finished epic (original and expanded cut) and a wealth of extras to keep us occupied.
Do You Like Hitchcock?
After a comeback, of sorts, with 2004’s The Card Player, horror master Dario Argento helmed this stylish TV movie, part of a proposed series in which other famous Italian filmmakers would pay homage to the unqualified Master of Suspense. Opinions are mixed on the final outcome, with some critics complaining that Argento seems stuck in the overstylized aspects of his aesthetic while others enjoy the numerous references to genre artists (Murnau, Lang) from the past. One thing’s for sure – with Argento behind the lens, the visuals will far outshine any narrative missteps.
Heart Like a Wheel*
Long before Danica Patrick made fast (racing) females pop culture cool, Shirley “Cha Cha” Muldowney broke the gender barrier in the competitive world of top fuel drag racing. This 1983 bio-pic features a stellar lead turn by Bonnie Bedelia as Mudowney, with excellent supporting work from Beau Bridges, Hoyt Axton and Leo Rossi. Over the Edge director Jonathan Kaplan doesn’t go for slam bang action, or a phony vignette-oriented overview of Muldowney’s life. Instead, he allows the characters to develop and grow, making the emotional impact in the story all the more potent.
Favored Florida son Carl Hiaasen has been notoriously gun shy about having his work translated to the silver screen. After all, the last time he allowed a novel of his to be interpreted by Hollywood, the result was the certified stinker, Demi Moore’s infamous Striptease. Nearly a decade after that debacle, Hiassen hooks up with comedian turned director Will Shriner to helm a version of his most family friendly tome. While this story of a transplant teen compelled to take up the cause of an endangered owl is faithful to its source material, many critics found the results dull and uninspired.
Masters of Horror: Dario Argento’s Jenifer
When Showtime announced the premise behind its new anthology series, Masters of Horror, the scary sky appeared to be the limit. The world’s leading genre moviemakers creating original fright flicks for the small screen – what could go wrong? Well, just ask anyone who sat through Don Coscarelli’s Incident On and Off a Mountain Road or John Landis’ Deer Woman. While Joe Dante’s Homecoming received universal praise, Dario Argento’s addition, a slick, sick adaptation of a 1974 Creepy Magazine story was not so successful. It goes without saying that the title “entity” is a nasty little looker. The rest of the movie is not that much fun.
Scary Movie 4
Oh joy, more pointless spoofery without a lick of subtlety and sense. Nothing more than a lame lampoon of every blockbuster film that arrived in theaters since the last installment of the franchise, there is no longer anything frightening in these films – except their continuing existence. With nary a Wayans in sight and a constant reliance on gags both obvious and under-realized, the formerly talented creative team behind the still funny Airplane!/Naked Gun movies shows how far they have sunk in their desire to be demographically correct. Besides, how do you seriously ridicule cinematic and social stumbles as obvious as The Village or Tom Cruise’s Oprah dramatics? That’s like shooting farce fish in a barrel.
Six Moral Tales by Eric Rohmer, The Criterion Collection*
Though he’s considered an important part of the French New Wave of the ‘50s and ‘60s, director Eric Rohmer was not out to change the face of cinema. Instead, he was more concerned with bringing the dark truths and harsh realities of human interaction into the typically staid world of Hollywood hokum. Collecting all six efforts in this self-styled series – The Girl at the Monçeau Bakery, Suzanne’s Career (both 1963), The Collector (1967), My Night at Maud’s (1969) Claire’s Knee (1970) and Chloe in the Afternoon (1972) – Criterion delivers another stunning box set celebrating an important motion picture artist.
In a new weekly addition to Who’s Minding the Store, SE&L will feature an off title disc worth checking out. For 15, August:
Sars Wars: Bangkok Zombie Crisis
First off – gotta LOVE that title. It would take a whole heck of a lot of cinematic incompetence to screw up this superb idea. An outbreak of the deadly virus turns twisted, as victims mutate into foul flesh eaters. It is up to a guy with a sword to stop the rampage. While it claims to be created “in the tradition of Shaun of the Dead”, this sounds more like the amazing Argentinean undead epics Plaga Zombie and Plaga Zombie: Mutant Zone. In fact, if it’s one-tenth as inventive and entertaining as those hilarious horror comedies, this could be the fun fright find of the year.