10+ Questions with Kim Morgan of Sunset Gun
Nathaniel: How often do you go to the movies and/or watch at home?
Kim: If I'm out of a shut-in spell, I go to the movies about once a week. If there's a great film series going on or screenings I have to attend, more. As for in home viewing...I think (of late anyway, I've been watching movies like crazy) I average three movies a day, sometimes four. If I get anything that says "Film Noir Box Set" or "Women in Peril" I'm in trouble. And I always re-watch a movie I’ve seen a million times before I go to sleep. I go through phases. I used to watch Marnie constantly. And All the President's Men. And then I went through this They Shoot Horses, Don't They? obsession. Baby Doll was another. I'd wake up with Karl Malden screaming "Baby Dooolll" in a continual brain loop. I think that's slightly healthier than Gig Young's depressing, mocking "Yowza, yowza, yowza."
Nathaniel: I can't fall asleep if a movie is on myself (i need pitch black and silence... so fussy) but i envy you. ... well, not the Gig Young or Karl Malden hauntings.
Kim: I recently spent time in the desert and became reacquainted with darkness, silence and deep sleep so I really should change my habits. But then I live right off Hollywood Blvd. so it's never exactly quiet.
Nathaniel: Do you dream about movies too?
Kim: Unless the movie is bleeding into my sleep, I don't think I've ever had a dream about a specific movie. But since I always take a movie to bed, I'm not so sure. Maybe I'm never getting proper REM sleep. I have had two dreams about Gene Hackman though, those were good dreams. I wish John Garfield would find his way into my slumber.
Nathaniel: When and how did you first discover your cinephilia?
Kim: In terms of cinephelia, probably when I was seven-years-old and saw High Sierra on TV. I had to see every Humphrey Bogart movie after that. I also kept a journal listing actors, directors and movies (old and current) I liked. Oh god, and when I saw Rebel Without
a Cause at a revival showing, not only was I knocked out by seeing all those colors and angles and chicken races on the big screen but I had to find that red jacket James Dean wore. I wore that red coat all through middle school. I wish I still had that jacket.
Nathaniel: I think a lot of movie obsessives wait patiently (or im) for movies that remind them of those initial heady all enveloping thrills. Any recent movies or movie objects trip your switch in this way?
Kim: Whenever I see a movie I love on the big screen for the first time, it’s incredibly thrilling. Like when I saw Baby Face at UCLA a few years back or Cisco Pike at the American Cinemateque or nearly everything at the Noir Fest (The Crimson Kimono and Pickup on South
Street writ large? Watching close-ups the way Samuel Fuller intended? Richard Widmark and Jean Peters’ faces when Widmark’s lifting that microfilm from her purse? Chills). When I first saw Vertigo in re-release – I was in a state of total bliss. I wanted to pull a Mia Farrow Purple Rose of Cairo and step into the screen (though I don’t know if I’d want Jimmy Stewart following me outside and telling me how to do my hair. Oh, who am I kidding? Of course I’d want Jimmy Stewart following me around and dressing me in crisp grey suits).
As per current films, I was nutty over I Heart Huckabees (if that counts as current). I went to that movie over and over and over again. It wasn’t just that it was brilliant, or that it merged some of my favorite things in the world: perfectly timed screwball comedy, existential philosophy and Lily Tomlin, but it was gorgeously filmed and scored in this bittersweet, off kilter way that got me in all these mysterious places. Zodiac, Bug and The Darjeeling Limited were also on that level. And I want that train car in Darjeeling. I’ve taken two cross country train trips this year in a sleeper car but to have a car that detailed and that beautiful, well, is it even possible? What other movie items have I recently coveted? More from Darjeeling, I want Adrien Brody’s sunglasses. I want the Dodge Charger from Death Proof. And I want any dinner Samuel Jackson cooks for Christina Ricci in Black Snake Moan.
Nathaniel: Hallelujah and amen. Listening to you I felt like I was in a revival tent just then. I believe! ...in the cinema.
Any thoughts on why it's such a challenge to get the industry or the public or even young film fans more interested in the classics? Why do you suppose film culture is so narrowly focused on the now?
Kim: Actually, I think it’s a pretty good time for classic film lovers. There’s some lovely restored pictures being released, things we’ve never seen on DVD (like Barbara Stanwyck and Ralph Meeker in the great John Sturges picture Jeopardy), there’s lots of film discussion, especially online, and obviously Hollywood, usually to their folly, looks to classics for re-makes. Like Michael Bay’s ridiculous idea to re-make The Birds. Ugh. Why is Naomi Watts agreeing to do that? But you are right -- living in Los Angeles, I’m amazed by how many people working in the film industry have either no interest or very little knowledge about older, classic cinema. There are exceptions of course, and there are those with a base knowledge, but it’s really depressing. I’ve met a few film majors turned “filmmakers” who’ve seen nearly nothing. They think watching Garden State is the kind of inspiration they need to make their first movie over say, I don’t know…the early work of Polanski (which every aspiring filmmaker should watch, in my opinion).
And kids, well, I don’t know what to do about kids these days. All the teenagers who went to Saw IV – go see Saw, but in addition to that, I really wish they’d watch Eyes Without A Face. Just observe how truly horrifying and weirdly poetic it is when you watch a face being ripped off (and in French). That might pique their interest. That, and anything with a young Ann-Margret. Ann-Margret in The Swinger? Or Kitten With a Whip? What kid could resist that? And it might lead them to Carnal Knowledge. And if Lindsay Lohan can watch all of Ann-Margret’s oeuvre (with all of her shit to deal with), I think other young ones can follow suit. Maybe then Fox will finally release The Pleasure Seekers on DVD.
Nathaniel: Good for you for avoiding my negativity. My brain got stuck there once I realized how many Montgomery Clift performances were getting hard to find.
Kim: Wait, you're right about that. There's so many movies not on DVD it's sickening.
Nathaniel: Popcorn or Candy?
Kim: I'll stay positive and say popcorn. Popcorn without a question.
Nathaniel: On Sunset Gun you seem to have no aversion to lists. I'm not going to torture you with something huge like a top ten that would make a big article on your on blog. But humor us a little. Name your favorite film, director, actor, and actress ... or if you're feeling really generous two for each (one classic, one modern)
Kim: Oh, you are trying to torture me here. I don't know if I can answer that! Hmm…well I just re-watched Bring Me the Head Of Alfredo Garcia, so at this very moment it would be Sam Peckinpah and Isela Vega, but then she’s made all the more powerful with wily Warren Oates at her side. (I have an enormous crush on Warren Oates which I’ve talked about frequently, probably too much.)
<-- Kim with Tuesday Weld... I couldn't resist
Also, have you ever heard the story about Peckinpah wanting to direct the adaptation of Joan Didion's great LA novel Play It As It Lays? It eventually starred Tuesday Weld (whom I worship) and was helmed by Frank Perry and turned out to be an intriguing picture that's now very hard to see, but imagine Peckinpah dancing with Didion. Maybe that would have been absolutely perfect, I'm not sure.
But anyway...back on track here, favorite director and actress. That's immediately making me think of all the great directors of women like Sirk or Cukor or Fassbinder or Robert Aldrich for Autumn Leaves alone, an incredibly sensitive look at female loneliness. I'm currently working on an essay discussing Sam Fuller as one of cinema's great, unsung directors of the female animal, from Thelma Ritter and Jean Peters in Pickup on South Street (Ritter is stunning in that picture and I love the part because it could have just as easily been played by a man); to Constance Towers in The Naked Kiss (how many films open with a bald sexy woman beating the crap out of some guy? And then that woman becomes the heroine? And in 1964?); to the extraordinarily adult, complicated and touching way he shows Victoria Shaw fall in love with James Shigeta in The Crimson Kimono. And then there’s Stanwyck in 40 Guns, where she’s this ass-kicking, whip wielding force of freaking nature.
Did I answer the question?
Nathaniel: You probably answered it in the only way you could have. A horrible Sophie's Choice question for cinephiles.
Of today's current directors or stars who do you think is doing the most interesting work --stuff we might still be talking about in years to come? Or, if you'd care to conjecture... who do you believe could really kick it up a notch if someone gives them the right opportunity.
Kim: With actors, for me at this moment, it’s all about Josh Brolin. He’s got this rugged 1970’s thing going on – great/weird looking (my favorite type), but quirky as hell and essentially a leading man character actor. He was hammy and hilarious in Planet Terror, and then soulful and subtle (while still being funny) in No Country for Old Men, so far the best picture of the year. He reminds me of a young Nick Nolte with a little Charles Bronson and not surprisingly, his father thrown in. But he’s all his own and was at times, brilliant in the four movies he appeared in. He was finally given a chance this year and took it up quite a few notches. The guy is needed in cinema – he’s a man!
And then of course there’s Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Paul Rudd – there’s a lot of great people out there. In terms of directors there’s the obvious The Coen’s, who made a masterpiece this year (why, they haven’t received an Oscar for anything other than the screenplay to Fargo further shows how stupid the Academy is), Wes Anderson, Paul Thomas Anderson – I think the term classic is used too soon for movies these days though. I might sound like a bitter, chain-smoking, 90-year-old motion picture actress but, it used to take some time for a picture to become a classic. I was just reading something that called The Polar Express a classic. Um, no. I think it’s interesting to speculate which pictures might become later classics – like all of the movies in Shane Black’s oeuvre (as both writer and director) – The Last Boy Scout, The Long Kiss Goodnight and Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang.
Who else? I love the direction Gus Van San has taken – call me an aesthetic whore but I get chills just looking at the colors in Elephant or the way he follows the back of Michael Pitt’s head in Last Days. And unlike the detractors who think it’s so much arty, Bela Tarr posturing, the pictures really move me (especially Elephant). And I actually liked Gerry – I love a movie in which the sound of crunching rocks sends viewers states of apoplectic hysteria. I also think Gaspar Noe is savagely brilliant – both I Stand Alone and Irreversible – I wish he’d make other movie. God, I’m practically hyperventilating here. I didn’t even discuss The Rock, as in Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson – I love him. He’s someone who, if given the right part could be absolutely brilliant. Seriously.
Nathaniel: I share the Brolin enthusiasm. At least as far as 2007 is concerned. I met him recently and I'm being totally presumptious here assuming this but I got the impression that he was pretty giddy about the work he's done this year. And justifiably so I should add.
If you ran Hollywood, name three things you'd immediately do.
Kim: Oh God, there's more than three things. But off the top of my head I would, come to an agreement with the writers. Lower ticket prices. And...require that all working in the business watch at least two classic movies a month -- and read a classic piece of literature. Except Beowulf.
Nathaniel: Hee. OK, last question.
They make a movie of your life. Who stars. directs. What's it called. Rating. Tagline? GO!
Kim: Jesus! No, not Jesus, the movie (exclamation point), Jesus Christ this is a tough one. Err…for some reason I immediately thought of Angel Dusted starring Jean Stapleton, but that’s not quite right. Then there’s the other PCP movie where Helen Hunt jumps out of window, Desperate Lives – PCP movies have great titles. OK, uh…I’m going to have to go with the old Susan Hayward drunk movie for title alone, Smash Up: The Story of a Woman with the tagline from that other harrowing Hayward booze-fest, I'll Cry Tomorrow: “Filmed on location; inside a woman’s soul.” It’s my movie so Warren Oates and Lee Van Cleef have to appear. Roman Polanski directs. I want this to be good, so Tuesday Weld stars, of course. I guess I better start drinking...
Nathaniel: Thanks again Kim for your illuminatingly thorough and movie drunk answers. Just the way we like 'em.
Readers, I hope you'll check out Sunset Gun if you aren't already a fan. And add some of these well-loved movies to your rental queue. I know I'm delinquent in getting around to 40 Guns and Pickup on South Street and especially Tuesday Weld's early filmography.