Friday, October 7, 2016

Nosh 35: 'Deepwater Horizon,' 'The Beatles: Eight Days a Week' & More

By David Elliott

Flix Nosh is a personal movie menu, served fresh each Friday.

APPETIZER: Deepwater Horizon and The Beatles: Eight Days a Week
Mark Wahlberg is the quality hamburger of stars (Dwayne Johnson is more like butt steak, Vin Diesel a wiener with attitude). Wahlberg’s macho appeal is so sturdy and grounded that when you match him with Kurt Russell, who achieved similar effects long before, you have the support beams for a disaster whopper like Deepwater Horizon. The name belonged to a huge British Petroleum-leased oil rig off the Louisiana coast, above a mile of water. "The well from hell," says a worker on film, but for the 126 rig occupants it was a living (and for 11 of them, a dying).

The movie directed by Peter Berg points a finger at corporate profit-over-prudence, like skipping a $125,000 cement pressure test. Those saved dollars turned into billions lost, once the Horizon became (April 20, 2010) a fireball of frying, flying metal. The underwater spill polluted the Gulf Coast for 87 days (and how many decades?). Rig manager Mike Williams (Wahlberg), heroic in the crisis, soon left the offshore petro-biz. His boss “Mr. Jimmy” Harrell (Russell), full of outspoken doubts before the disaster, stayed in the trade. A convenient (real?) villain personifies BP, oozing a Dixie accent like a one-man oil leak; John Malkovich’s reptile gaze and cocky idiocy echo his psychotic Cyrus the Virus in Con Air.

Berg and a fine cast (including Kate Hudson as Williams’s wife) are basically lubing the lavish, creaky machinery. We feel viscerally on the rig as it clanks, sputters, shakes and then blows. The shock and fear are like multipliers of the derrick disaster in There Will Be Blood (anyone who misses John Wayne’s The Hellfighters should be left on the rig). Remember James Dean’s joy in Giant, when his well became a glorious gusher? Here that dream dies. Although a frantic seabird crashes into a control room, this  movie never gets a grip on the vast environmental cost, which is rather like making a Katrina film without mentioning New Orleans. (Still, it's a swell platform  for Kurt Russell. For all who love King Kurt, I recommend Scott Marks's ace interview with him, in the Movies section of the current

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years
That title is ridiculously long for a simple, endearing documentary that should have been released as Beatles!, or maybe Fab Forever. Ron Howard directed (more like pasted) this scrapbook of period clips and modern interviews, including band survivors Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. For us vintage viewers, it’s timeless. I recall the Beatles, drowned out by fans when I went with pal Mike Walters to a Chicago showing of A Hard Day’s Night. Here they are again, those swarming, screaming girls, as if recorded on eternal ear wax.

The Beatles came out of Liverpool by way of Hamburg and Ed Sullivan, toured for a few giddy years, disbanded a few years later. The Rolling Stones rock on, into fossil twilight, but mere longevity can’t beat the Beatles. This zippy dossier of their heyday brings back just how fresh, keen, funny and creative they were, the four unique lads making the best tunes of a troubled decade. Whoopi Goldberg, former screamer, offers a quiet salute: “I never looked at them as white guys. They were the Beatles.” Nobody is too old, too young or too jaded for this pleasure. It will, in this angry year, de-Trump your brain.

SALAD (A List)
The Twelve Best Disaster Movies, in my experience: Dr. Strangelove (Kubrick, 1964), Titanic (Cameron, 1997), Take Shelter (Nichols, 2011), The Birds (Hitchcock, 1963), The Day the Earth Caught Fire (Guest, 1961), Things to Come (Menzies, 1936), War of the Worlds (Haskin, 1953), The Forbidden Quest (Delpeut, 1993), The Sinking of the Lusitania (McCay, 1918), Deepwater Horizon (Berg, 2016), The Naked Jungle (Haskin, 1954) and The Impossible (Bayona, 2012).
WINE (Vin Orsonaire de Chateau Welles)

Put together on the run across Europe, using a patchwork budget and actors caught between other, better-paying projects, the Fifties noir mystery Mr. Arkadin is a Wellesian wonder. Or as a great critic said, “a kaleidoscope of signs, and like a brainteaser of clues. The truth rises up in fragments, is shattered, is recomposed and finally is discovered whole: the terrible secret of Arkadin is that he has no secrets.” (Guillermo Cabrera-Infante, A Twentieth Century Job, 1991)

ENTRÉE (Starlight Rising)
Sometimes an actor has one indelible role, worthy to last. In The Horse’s Mouth (1959), “Mike Morgan had few lines, but each arrives as touching or funny, not so much hobbled by his stutter as made achingly sincere. During the editing, Morgan died from meningitis, which puts a heart flutter in Jimson’s toast, ‘Young man, I drink to your gloomy future.’ For me the endearing actor still mirrors my young dream of art.” (From the Alec Guinness/The Horse’s Mouth chapter in my book Starlight Rising: Acting Up in Movies, from Amazon, Nook and Kindle.)

DESSERT (An Image)
A great movie image is more than a still, it’s a distillation.

Poor cowhand Jett Rink (James Dean) gets oil-rich dirty in Giant (Warner Bros., 1956; director George Stevens, cinematographer William C. Mellor)

For previous Flix Nosh meals, scroll below.

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