He is one of Mark Kermode’s favourite film critics. Nigel’s contributions to online film discussion go way back before it became mainstream (i.e. he was a message board conversationalist in the Usenet years). Here is a rundown of his best statements from that era…
Does anybody know who Joel Schumacher’s agent is?:
No, but whoever he is, he’d better be getting paid a lot of money. Nothing else could justify his representing a director who has made some of the worst movies in virtually every genre which he has essayed: St. Elmo’s Fire, The Lost Boys, Dying Young, Flatliners, The Client and Batman Forever.
A 1994 Ray Brady film:
Boy Meets Girl is an amateurish sleazefest masquerading as a profound statement on screen violence and the power struggle between the sexes. It’s interesting that the film has been received best in foreign territories, where the subtitling has presumably rendered the appalling, stilted dialogue less crass and laughable.
It’s unlikely that there are plans to release the Special Edition theatrically since the additional scenes were added to a video master as opposed to a celluloid negative. To release a theatrical version, Cameron would have to re-cut the movie again on film.
I have also spoken to Jean-Jacques Beineix, the director, who expresses the same amazement that anyone could possibly think that: (A) actual sex would look realistic on screen (B) any censorship body in the world would permit the showing of actual sex (usually defined as ‘pornography’ for censorship purposes) in a commercially distributed movie. Wish fulfillment is one thing. Reality is something else altogether. I recently interviewed Jean-Hugues Anglade and you can’t believe how bored he is with hearing this rumour. As with all the alleged participants in “actual sex” on screen, he pointed out that what he and Beatrice Dalle were doing was ACTING.
Missing songs from the soundtrack of Hackers:
When I interviewed director Iain Softley a short while ago, I asked him about these omissions, which basically come down to the usual copyright clearance problems. And, I suspect, a question of cost. The clearing of rights for movie soundtracks is a Kafkaesque quagmire, which often has more to do with the greed of the music publishers and/or recording labels than with the creative wishes of the actual artistes. United Artists were conspicuously slow in agreeing to put out a soundtrack album in the first place, so I’m afraid that you’ll have to console yourself with the fact that it appeared at all, in any form. I’ll try to get a full track listing from Softley’s office, but don’t hold your breath because he’s currently at Pinewood Studios shooting an adaptation of Henry James’s The Golden Bowl.
The worth of Clive Barker’s signatures:
Since Clive is one of those who – to quote a slightly sniffy book dealer who I once met – “signs easily”, my guess would be not much.
Cannibal Women from the Avocado Jungle of Death:
In England, the movie was called Piranha Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death, but a rose by any other name, as they say. I loved it, too, and said so in print. Somebody who saw and hated the film had phoned a friend of mine who worked at the video distribution company that put it out. In an incredulous voice, she asked: “How much money or coke did you have to give Nigel Floyd in order to get that rave review?” But who could resist a movie in which Adrienne Barbeau plays the leader of a lesbian-separatist tribe who force men to cook, knit and act as sex slaves? I particularly liked the line about trying to encourage the female tribe members to relate to men as something other than foodstuffs. A cult movie par excellence. A must for unreconstructed males and thinking females.
A martial arts movie star:
I’ve recently seen Van Damme’s The Quest, which he directed himself. Sadly, it’s a complete mess. As he has half-admitted in interviews, it’s nothing like as good as he had hoped. It feels like a remake of Bloodsport, made with a little less money but a lot less style. Even the fight scenes were a little dull, and not very interestingly shot. Perhaps his next project will set him back on course.
Plagiarism, like a vampire, has been around since the dawn of time:
Has anyone here commented on the similarity between the old Grace Jones movie Vamp (1986) and the Titty Twister sequences in From Dusk till Dawn (1996)? If not, why not?
An example of Tarantino’s thievery:
Watch the opening diner scene of Barry Levinson’s Tin Men, with its references to Bonanza, or the equivalent scenes in his earlier Diner. When I interviewed Tarantino about Reservoir Dogs, he said that somebody had described it as Tin Men with guns.
Trainspotting being compared to Kids:
How dare you compare it with Larry Clark’s facile, middle-aged take on adolescence. While not perfect, Trainspotting has energy, imagination, a literate script (some of which may have been lost in the U.S. version) and a set of skilfully realised, keenly observed characters. Certain scenes achieve a surreal imagery: e.g. the plunge through the disgusting betting shop toilet into the clearwater nirvana below – just as junkies will immerse themselves in mire to obtain the ‘hit’ that will cure all their ills. The use of music, particularly in the OD/Perfect Day sequence, is also excellent. It is broken-backed, swerving in the middle where the boys go off to London to sell the drugs, but the overall impact is not lessened.
Obviously you saw a different film from me. This was an anonymous, boring, poorly written and thoroughly ordinary action movie. There was no hint of the John Woo who directed The Killer, Bullet in the Head and Hard-Boiled. No wonder Woo’s name didn’t appear on the invite for last night’s press screening, it could have be made by any hack. I would go so far as to say that, within in its more limited terms, Under Siege 2 was a more successful movie. In addition, the dialogue was the most hackneyed and cliched that I’ve heard for a long time. The script sounds like it’s been through the studio mincer, Travolta struggles to invest his role with any conviction, the anonymous Slater fares little better, and (in a chronically under-written role) feisty female lead Samantha Mathis comes off like a poor man’s Sandra Bullock (which is less than she deserves). A major disappointment – one which raises the question: can a director as distinctive as Woo survive in the Hollywood system? On this evidence, the answer would appear to be no.
With the exception of Kureishi’s London Kills Me and Isaac Julien’s Young Soul Rebels, Sammie and Rosie Get Laid was the worst British film of recent years. While we’re on the subject, although My Beautiful Laundrette was distributed as a film, it was in fact a TV play, shot on 16mm from the small screen, which is where it belonged, and still belongs. This is the key: Kureishi is primarily a writer of novels and TV plays, one who has little visual sense and whose work therefore works best on the page or on the small screen: witness the TV play Buddha of Suburbia, which is his best work to date.
Why Four Rooms got bad reviews not necessarily because of Quentin’s contribution:
I think there’s another dimension you might consider. It’s likely that many critics, amongst whom I number myself, were antagonised by Miramax’s failure to screen the film for them. This was attributed to “missing optical effects”, but after the film’s no-show at the Venice Film festival, the rumour began to build that the film was a stinker. Their refusal to show to screen it for the press therefore was seen as an exercise in damage limitation. This happened in the UK, too, where the reviews were harsher than they might have been because the usual courtesy of press screening had been denied. Everyone here immediately started sharpening their quill and dipping them in venom Speaking personally, I didn’t even bother to attend the eventual, last-minute press screening because the deadlines for all my various magazine outlets had passed.
Natural Born Killers:
Tarantino asked that his credit as scriptwriter be reduced to ‘Story by’ not because of any objections to the film (which had not been made at the time and which he claims never to have seen) but because he felt that Stone’s amendments to his script has altered the whole tone and nature of the project. His lesser credit therefore more accurately reflected his contribution to the finished film.
Helping a couple see which movie is worth seeing between Species and Apollo 13:
Let’s put this as subtly as I can: Species is a laughable mess with wafer-thin “characters” along with poor storytelling, laugh-out-loud dialogue and diabolical special effects. Apollo 13 is a classy commercial movie with seamless, unobtrusive special effects that never get in the way of the characterizations and suspenseful storytelling. In short, I think Apollo 13 is your best bet.
The importance of widescreen cinema and the influence of Badlands:
If you’ve only ever seen Pulp Fiction as a full-frame video, you’ve only seen half of it. Has nobody noticed that the opening of True Romance is a direct rip-off of Terence Mallick’s film? Interestingly enough, I asked Tarantino about the similarities between True Romance and Terence Malick’s film when I interviewed him around the time that Pulp Fiction was released in the U.K. However, although he acknowledged the general influence, he pointed out that it was director Tony Scott who had included the girlish voice-over narration, not to mention Hans Zimmer’s synthesised (synthetic) variation on the Erik Satie music used in Badlands. He went on to say that he himself wouldn’t have had the balls to do something so close to the original.
Publication of Tarantino’s screenplays:
The True Romance script will still be published on February 23rd. However, the publication of the Natural Born Killers script has been “postponed indefinitely” (per Faber & Faber) following a letter from Oliver Stone’s lawyers claiming that he owns the copyright on Tarantino’s original script. Tarantino’s lawyers are contesting this, but in the meanwhile, Faber & Faber have decided to err on the side of discretion. Hot news, straight from the horse’s mouth.
Pertaining to February 17 in 1999:
I saw a press screening of eXistenZ on Wednesday night. It’s very severe, cerebral and gooey, with lots of Videodrome and Naked Lunch-style playing around with the fluidity of identity. Nothing like as virtual-reality based as I expected: there are, for example, no Lawnmower Man-style CGI effects. It’s more of a clever, self-referential dissection of role-playing games, with particular reference to the role of the artist/creator (à la Naked Lunch). The most unexpected thing, though, is how funny it is. Not something that one normally associates with him. One for Cronenberg aficionados, I think. Without a foreknowledge of Cronenbergian preoccupations, mainstream audiences may find it hard to find a point of entry. I’m interviewing Cronenberg later next week. Look out for the resulting feature in the May issue of SFX magazine.
Robert Rodriguez comparisons:
I saw a press screening of Desperado the other night. It is indeed El Mariachi 2, a more expensive re-make/sequel to the first film with more money and less heart. Without giving too much away, it features redundant cameos by both Quentin Tarantino and Steve Buscemi, but replaces the ballsy, sensual female character from the original film with a pretty, rather insipid one. On the other hand, Antonio Banderas broods handsomely in the lead role. For the record, I preferred the original. Fans of Tarantino-style comic violence will not be disappointed either. Otherwise, avoid this misconceived, warmed-over rehash at all costs.
Led Zeppelin ceasing the infringing by a rapper on the Bad Lieutenant soundtrack:
By a curious turn of events, the track in question was removed from the British video release at the very last minute. Curiously, during the rape scene, it has been replaced by organ music, but in the scene where Harvey Keitel runs down the street and ducks into a tenement to buy crack, the music has simply been removed, leaving silence. All this after the time-coded preview tapes, containing both the censored scenes and the now-removed Schoolly D track, had been mailed out to unsuspecting critics.
Celine and Julie Go Boating:
Yes, the English title is correct. It’s also known as Phantom Ladies Over Paris. Apparently, Vont en Bateau is a French slang phrase which means something like get taken for a ride. If you watch Desperately Seeking Susan, with Rosanna Arquette and Madonna, you will notice that the director borrows some of Rivette’s ideas from this film.
I’ve just started reading the source novel by Patrick McGrath. His earlier novel, The Grotesque, was made into a horrible film by Sting.
A woman wants to read a review of The 5th Element before seeing it:
Why? Isn’t the evidence of Nikita and Leon enough for you? I’ve seen a press preview screening and, in my opinion, you should kill to see it. But that’s not a review, that’s my own personal assessment.
Is Nicole Kidman’s performance within To Die For worthy of an Oscar?
Yes, it most certainly is. Her New England accent is impeccable, her gift for comic timing is everywhere evident, yet there is an underlying vulnerability and innocence about her character which prevents it from tipping over into caricature. In short, this is Nicole Kidman as you have never seen her before. Don’t forget that she had already proved her ability in Dead Calm. I also had the opportunity to interview Ms. Kidman in Cannes earlier this year and I can tell you she has her head well and truly screwed on. This being the wife of Hollywood’s most famous Scientologist.
Escape from L.A. as a sequel to Escape from New York:
How does it compare to the original? Simple, it’s the same damn movie, made with more money and less imagination. The story structure is almost identical, the tone just as jokey – Snake is simply older and the location different. Some minor details have been changed. If I understood it correctly, the Isaac Hayes character is now played by Tarantino favourite Pam Grier (sex change). Instead of the deadly bolts in the side of his neck, Snake has been injected with a quick-acting virus, to which the President and his cronies have the only known antidote. In short, if you’re a true fan of the jokey original, don’t bother for any other reason than completism.
An overlooked influence on Pulp Fiction:
The other crime writer whose work that Tarantino refers to a lot is the brilliant but sadly dead Charles Willeford. His books have the same quality of apparent inconsequentiality, married to a wry attitude to violence, and a narrative that is driven by character and dialogue rather than plot mechanics. I would recommend all of his books to any Tarantino fan, but especially Miami Blues, The Way We Die Now, New Hope For the Dead and Sideswipe.
I especially agree with what Nigel Floyd said about Broken Arrow. It looks and sounds like a typical `90s action movie. It could easily have been directed by the likes of Michael Bay, James Cameron, Andrew Davis, Roland Emmerich, Renny Harlin, Walter Hill, John Irvin, John McTiernan, Russell Mulcahy and Tony Scott. It’s hard to imagine it being any more liked than John Woo’s Hard Target despite the novelty of seeing John Travolta as a villain. Anyway, Nigel lives by the words of Matsuo Bashō: “Do not follow in the footsteps of the men of old; seek what they sought.”