America's Stopped Making Sense, The President's Something Wild, And We Miss Jonathan Demme
Goofin' around on the set of 'Silence of the Lambs' with Anthony Hopkins
We lost Jonathan Demme today. The Oscar-winning director of some of our favorite films died of cancer at the age of 73, leaving behind a string of amazing movies that never fit into any easy mold, but almost always seemed fresh and innovative, including huge hits like the horror-suspense classic Silence of the Lambs; intimate art-house wonders like Swimming to Cambodia, the movie that made Spaulding Gray a household name (OK, maybe only in the right households); and the best goddamned concert movie ever filmed, Stop Making Sense, which made almost all other concert movies feel a bit lackluster. And yes, he did that one Tom Hanks Has AIDS And Gay People Are Relatable Not Scary movie, which made tons of money, got awards, and made it OK for mainstream audiences to feel bad about a gay character, mostly because he wasn't too gay, and died a Hollywood death with beautiful cinematic handkerchief-filling sadness like in Love Story. (We always put an asterisk next to that one in Demme's filmography.)
Demme started in movies working under the great low-budget schlockmeister Roger Corman, a great way to learn how to get audiences reaching for the popcorn. His first sorta-hit was the delightfully goofy Melvin and Howard, a very loose adaptation of an allegedly true story of how Howard Hughes palled around with an ordinary schlub to whom Hughes promises to leave his fortune, not that the courts bought the story. Here's the opening, where Demme and his stars, Jason Robards and Paul Le Mat, efficiently set up everything to come:
In 1986, Demme reanimated the screwball comedy with Something Wild, with Melanie Griffith playing the archetypal Manic Pixie Dream Girl to Jeff Daniels's Mister Button-Down:
And also that end credits sequence, with Sister Carol's most kickass cover of "Wild Thing," ever, ever, ever:
We're not going to try to cover all of his movies here -- for one thing, did anyone really need to remake The Manchurian Candidate? Even though Denzel Washington was just fine and the movie as a whole was a pretty good thriller, you just don't remake The Manchurian Candidate, get the hell out.
We could include a clip from Silence of the Lambs, too, but why, because you all are going to re-watch it tonight or this weekend anyway, as of course you should; instead, we're going to just close with the opening sequence of Stop Making Sense, because there is nothing else like it, and it's perfect, and it makes us smile and smile because it's perfect. Not just perfect for a movie where you're onstage with Talking Heads (and the audience doesn't even get shown until the end of the film), but perfect as a thing in itself. Enjoy:
Now talk about Jonathan Demme and movies, because it's your OPEN THREAD:
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.