Actor Pete Postlethwaite, RIP

From IMDB:

Pete Postlethwaite died in a in Shropshire, England, hospital Sunday after a lengthy fight with cancer. The actor was 64. An Oscar nominee for his role as the father of Daniel Day-Lewis‘s character in the 1993 In the Name of the Father, the distinctive-looking Postlethwaite also played the menacing owner of a flower shop in last year’s The Town, directed by and starring Ben Affleck. In Inception, he was the rich, dying patriarch (his son was played by Cillian Murphy). Steven Spielberg, who directed Postlewaite in The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Amistad, once called him “the best actor in the world.”

Fans of The Usual Suspects know him as Kobayashi. Over the holiday weekend I watched The Town, where he played the heavy. I don’t think I realized he was in the cast of Inception. More at his IMDB profile.

“The Ususal Suspects” screenwriters disagree about what happened

Dallas News via Kottke:

McQuarrie says only after finishing the film and preparing to do press interviews about it did he and Singer realize they both had completely different conceptions about the plot.

“I pulled Bryan aside the night before press began and I said, ‘We need to get our stories straight because people are starting to ask what happened and what didn’t,’ ” recalls McQuarrie. “And we got into the biggest argument we’ve ever had in our lives.”

He continues: “One of us believed that the story was all lies, peppered with little bits of the truth. And the other one believed it was all true, peppered with tiny, little lies. … We each thought we were making a movie that was completely different from what the other one thought.”

Obviously Verbal was lying to some degree, simply because we know he was pulling story details out of thin air, or more precisely out of the corkboard in the police office. “I used to be in a barbershop quarter in Skokie, Illinois,” he says while looking at a corkboard made by the Quarter company of Skokie, Illinois. That board is the source of so many lies that I believe the story itself is mostly lies.

At the end of the movie we see Verbal losing his feigned limp and getting into a car with the actor who played Kobayahsi – Keyser Soze’s messenger – in the flashbacks. None of that proves that Verbal is Soze or that dude is Kobayashi. We know that most of his story is a lie. The existence of the man who portrays Kobayahsi – whose name was taken from the bottom of a coffee cup – in the imagined flashback doesn’t make the lie the truth.

I don’t believe he was the criminal mastermind Keyser Soze. For one thing, he was too young. For another, he was a known small time con artist who had done time. Everyone gets 24 hours in a day. You can’t be a small time con artist locked up intermittently and be an international criminal mastermind heading up a vast criminal network with its tentacles everywhere.

Movies for Usual Suspects Fans

So you’ve seen The Usual Suspects. Maybe you’ve seen it more than once. If you’re like me, you’ve seen it dozens of times. Now what? Here are some other movies you may like if you’re a Suspects fan.

Best Bet – The Way of the Gun

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Just about everyone who likes The Usual Suspects also likes The Way of the Gun. Scripted by Suspects writer Chris McQuarrie and starring Benicio Del Toro, this crime movie is also told from the perspective of the criminals. There are plenty of strong, conflicting characters to enhance the drama. James Caan stars as Joe Sarno, a self-described worn-out old man who still has a few tricks up his sleeve.

There isn’t a twist ending, but there is a connection in the movie that’s never stated, but is strongly alluded to. I didn’t notice it myself, but someone commenting on the blog told me to look for it. I eventually had to listen to the commentary track to get it.

Crime Movies with the Same Actors

Miller’s Crossing – Fantastic Coen brothers gangster film starring Gabriel Byrne.

LA Confidential – Cops and robbers noir starring Kevin Spacey. Almost everyone has seen it, but this really is an oustanding movie with a remarkable cast, and it also has a twist when the villain’s identity is revealed.

Se7en – Serial killer thriller starring Kevin Spacey as the demented mind behind a series of gruesome murders. One of the two roles – along with his part in The Usual Suspects – that earned Kevin Spacey two places on the American Film Institute’s list of top movie villains.

Traffic and 21 Grams both feature Benicio Del Toro. I really like Del Toro, even though I’ve seen just a few of his many films. If you can recommend other good films of his, post in comments.

Movies with a Plot Twist or Twist Ending

Malice – One of my favorite movies. Stars Bill Pullman, a young Nicole Kidman, and Alec Baldwin, whose huge ego is perfect for the role of a surgeon who thinks he’s God.

The Spanish Prisoner – David Mamet film starring Steve Martin in a serious role. It’s been so long since I’ve seen it that I don’t even remember the plot, but I remember liking it quite a bit.

The Sixth Sense – Another movie that almost everyone has seen, but with one of the great horror movie twist endings.

The Crying Game – Another classic twist movie.

Identity – Odd things start happening early in this film, which has one foot in the horror genre. Stars John Cusack and Ray Liotta.

I can’t find it locally, but The Last of Sheila is supposed to be a good twist movie. I’m including it here as a reminder to myself to buy a copy from Amazon.

Any others you like with twist endings or actors from the Suspects? Post in comments.

Usual Suspects Sound Clips

From MovieQuoteQuiz.

BUSINESS PEOPLE

The Buffalo News (Buffalo, NY) May 31, 1995 Niagara Investment Advisors, a Buffalo investment advisory firm, has named Gregory E. Frey executive vice president and senior portfolio manager. He previously was vice president of trust investments at Fleet Investment Advisors. Frey is a graduate of the University at Buffalo.

The Insurance Club of Buffalo has named Nancy E. Ebert its 1995 “Insurance Person of the Year” and presented her with the Robert P. Lentz Award. She is assistant vice president of Clauss & Co.

The Greater Buffalo Partnership’s Small Business Council has elected Cindy Vastola-Lancaster chair. She is president and chief executive officer of Vastola Heating & Air conditioning Corp. Other officers elected are: vice chair, Kathryn O’Donnell, president of Botanicus Inc.; and treasurer, C. Anthony Rider, a partner at Ernst & Young. web site livingston county news

Delaware North Cos. Inc. has appointed Germaine Daly Reinhardt manager of corporate communications. She formerly was an account supervisor for Eric Mower and Associates. Ms. Reinhardt holds a bachelor’s degree in mass communications from St. Bonaventure University.

Quiller & Blake Advertising Inc. of Niagara Falls has appointed Tara Gatto direct marketing coordinator. She formerly was print production and traffic assistant at Crowley Webb & Associates. Ms. Gatto holds an associate’s degree in information processing from Bryant & Stratton Business Institute.

The United States Postal Service has named Bill Downes lead plant manager for Buffalo’s processing and distribution. He previously served as manager of contract administration for the American Postal Workers Union/National Postal Mailhandlers Union. Downes holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and business management from Fairleigh Dickenson University.

CPAC Inc., a Leicester manufacturer of processing chemicals and pollution-control systems for the imaging industry, has appointed Becky C. Livingston editor/graphic designer. She formerly was a newspaper reporter at the Livingston County News. Ms. Livingston holds a bachelor’s degree in communications from Geneseo State College. web site livingston county news

A&E Television Networks has named Artie Scheff vice president of on-air promotions. Formerly director of on-air promotion, he is a graduate of American University. Scheff has garnered three Emmy Awards, two Broadcast Design Awards (BDA), and several top awards at the New York International Film Festival, Chicago International Film Festival, MOBIUS International, Telly and Addy awards. The son of Joseph and Sandy Scheff of Williamsville, he currently is nominated for a record 15 BDA Awards.

Dr. Michael E. Merhige, a cardiologist with Buffalo Cardiology and Pulmonary Associates, presented a lecture on the United States’ View on Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Utilization at the Second International Conference of Nuclear Cardiology at Cannes, France. He also presented a paper on the detection of coronary artery disease.

Keyser Soze, the Band

There’s a ska band called Keyser Soze, and they sound pretty good.

“What Time Is It?”

One thing I never understood was why Keaton asks Keiser Soze “what time is it?” just before Koze kills him. This happens in the opening scene. Keyser Soze is ready to finish off Dean Keaton and asks if he’s ready (to die). Keaton asks “What time is it?” Soze looks at his gold watch and tells him “12:30.” But why?

The Special Edition DVD contains deleted scenes on the bonus disc. It turns out that at one point in the filming the directors had Keaton planting a bomb in the boat’s engine room. He would have known when it was going to go off, which is why he wanted to know the time. That scene was later cut from the movie and the bomb angle dropped, but the “what time is it?” line stayed. Here’s the engine room scene with McManus and Keaton:

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In that scene Keaton tells McManus there’s no cocaine on the boat. They have a confrontation and McManus decides to leave. In the final print of the movie, the scene ends, but the film continues rolling and shows Keaton crouching down and planting a bomb:

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(The picture quality is bad, because for some reason the deleted scenes on the DVD have really poor video quality.)

The bomb angle was dropped from the final cut, but it at least made sense. The suspects were told to get on the boat and destroy the cocaine. Smugglers would have hidden 91 million dollars worth of cocaine, either in smuggling compartments or by mixing it in with legitimate cargo. Blowing up the ship by planting a bomb in the engine room makes more sense than the suspects’ strategy of looking in state rooms and cupboards.

“The Greatest Trick the Devil Ever Pulled”

(Reader Tana sent in this post on the best-known quote from the movie. – LJ.)

On the commentary track of The Usual Suspects DVD, Bryan Singer mentions that the line “the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he doesn’t exist” is actually from Charles Baudelaire. I checked around on the web and learned that it’s from the short story “The Generous Gambler.” I found two links that have the story; one is the English translation (a pdf file); the other, the original French. Here are the links:

http://www.horrormasters.com/Text/a0536.pdf
http://baudelaire.litteratura.com/?rub=oeuvre&srub=pop&id=167

The first link is the English translation; the second link is the original French. I don’t know if you read French, or perhaps you might not have time to read the whole story, but the original line in the French version is the last sentence (which is in quotes) of the fifth paragraph. The line starts with “Mes chers fr

Continuity Gaffes in The Usual Suspects

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In chapter 8 the emerald smuggler flies into New York City and is met by New York’s Finest Taxi Service. “New York’s Finest Taxi Service was not your normal taxi service. It was a ring of corrupt cops in the NYPD that ran a high-profit racket driving smuggers and drug dealers all over the city. For a few hundred dollars you got your own blue and white and a police escort.”

The movie shows the smuggler’s plane arriving, with front and back views of the jet airplane. Do you notice anything wrong?

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These aren’t front and back views of the same plane. The first plane has four jet engines on the wings. The second plane has two. I wasn’t eagle-eyed enough to notice it myself, but Bryan Singer and Chris McQuarrie mention it on the audio commentary track.

I mention this to point out that some anomolies in the movie might be meaningful, or they may just be unintentional oversights, like this one. The commentary track notes other mistakes. In the parking garage robbery, Keaton wrestles a SIG P220 out of Saul Berg’s hand and kicks it across the cement floor to McManus. When McManus picks it up, the SIG P220 has turned into a Browning Hi-Power.

Arkash Kovosh’s Lines in English

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Spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen the movie.

Arkash Kovash is the sole survivor of the Hungarian gang on the boat. He only speaks Hungarian, and an interpreter has to be brought in to assist in getting a police sketch of Keyser Soze.

In the movie, Kovash’s rants are in his native language. In the script, his lines are in English.

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The Suspects’ Ages

Spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen the movie.

I discovered the original script online last week and read the whole thing. One small finding was the scriptwriter’s suggestion for the character’s ages.

Fred Fenster (Benicio Del Toro), “in his thirties”
Todd Hockney (Kevin Pollak), “in his thirties”
Dean Keaton (Gabriel Byrne), listed both as 40 and “in his forties”
Roger “Verbal” Kint (Kevin Spacey), “thirty-odd years”
Michael McManus (Stephen Baldwin), 28

FBI Agent Jack Baer (Giancarlo Esposito), “in his late thirties”
Edie Finneran (Suzy Amis), 33
Arkosh Kovash, “mid-thirties”
U.S. Customs Agent David Kujan (Chazz Palminteri), “thirty-ish”
Sergeant Jeffrey Rabin (Dan Hedaya), “in his late thirties”

This is trivia, though it has some practical bearing on the question of who is Keyser Soze. Sure, Verbal shot the witness on the boat, and he shot Keaton, but I’m not sure that makes him Keyser Soze. There are other explanations that work. For instance, he may be working for Soze. I need to explore that in a lot more depth, but I need to build up to it. For instance, I need to think more about which parts of the movie are reliable, and which parts are unreliable.

More suspects posts next Wednesday.

The Korean Bell of Friendship

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Reader Tana* has another find. I had Googled without luck to try to find the actual place where the suspects met Redfoot. I refered to it as “the Asian temple” because of its architecture. Tana linked to The Usual Supects entry at Movie-Locations.com:

It was shot mainly around Los Angeles, with just a bit of New York thrown in. The huge bell, where the suspects meet up with Redfoot, is the Korean Bell of Friendship, Angels Gate Park, South Gaffey Street down in San Pedro. The bell, presented by Korea during the US bicentennial celebrations in 1976, is on a breathtaking wild bluff overlooking the harbour of San Pedro to the east and the Palos Verdes Peninsula to the west. Take time out to get away from the usual tourist spots of LA and drive down to this unexpectedly beautiful spot.

Another mystery solved. I found a bunch of suspects-related material recently. Tune in Wednesday for more. Here’s a close-in shot of the bell:

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* I keep saying “reader Tana” because my sister’s name is Tana, and I want to avoid any confusion for people who know my family.

Actor Peter Greene, Uncredited Roles, and Missing Scenes

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Reader Tana responded to a Usual Suspects post and praised Peter Greene, the actor who plays Redfoot the jewel fence. I hadn’t known that actor’s name before, so I looked up his filmography on Internet Movie Database.

It turns out I had seen him before and hadn’t realized it. Peter Greene was Zed in Pulp Fiction. He also played Dorian Tyrell in The Mask (the Jim Carrey movie), which I didn’t watch until after I saw Tana’s post. It was on TBS tonight.

The reason I hadn’t known his name in The Usual Suspects is that he was uncredited. The movie manages to make room in the credits for Smuggler, Old Cop, and Bodyguards #1-4. It’s a mystery why Greene didn’t get credit for an excellent performance in a named speaking role.

Tana also points to this Peter Greene profile, which unflinchingly describes the heroin habit Greene had during most of his film career:

Unlike some no less tragic has-been actors, the fiercely talented Greene delivers. Marginally talented or charismatic screwups are a dime a dozen, but a true junkie artist is a rarity. And in Hollywood, such creatures are deified for living outside of the lines of self-control and responsibility until an industry of celebrity winds up flourishing around their tombstones.

During filming on The Usual Suspects, Greene luxuriously improvised a memorable filmic moment by flicking a lit cigarette into Stephen Baldwin’s face. Suspects writer Christopher McQuarrie calls Greene a “million-dollar day player,” which could be translated as “Get him in, nail the money shot, and get him out before he wreaks havoc.”

Greene improvised that scene? Then I guess Stephen Baldwin improvised acting like he was going to rip Greene’s arms off.

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Here’s another piece of Greene trivia from that scene. In the original script, Redfoot’s men ride in the Cadillac, and Redfoot drives a motorcycle:

The car, Redfoot’s escort Caddy, is now in front of them.
The horn lets out three short blasts. Redfoot comes around from behind the Caddy on his motorcycle. He gets off the bike, trying to hide a faint smile.
McManus throws Saul’s case on the ground in front of him.

In the movie, you never see Redfoot again, but the script had a grisly end planned for him.

79 EXT. PARKING LOT – NIGHT – TWO WEEKS PRIOR 79

Redfoot’s Harley rests on the roof of the Caddy in a mangled
heap. The body of the Caddy is riddled with bullet holes.

Redfoot’s dead body has been shoved head-first through a hole
in the windshield up to his waist, recognizable only by the
trademark red boot.

So Redfoot was supposed to wear red boots. The red boots sticking out of the Cadillac sounds like a Wizard of Oz reference.

So who killed Redfoot? The script makes that clear during the scene when the suspects abduct Kobayashi.

Verbal and McManus grab the dead bodies and drag them out of
the elevator. They drag them to the next elevator which has
been forced open, revealing an empty shaft.

KEATON
The answer is no.

KOBAYASHI
Mr. Soze will be most –

KEATON
Listen to me, cocksucker. There is no
Keyser Soze. If you say his name again,
I’ll kill you right here.

KOBAYASHI
A strange threat. I can only assume
you’re here to kill me anyway. Pity about
Mr. Redfoot.

McMANUS
Fair trade for Fenster.

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The Gold Watch and Cigarette Lighter

Spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen the movie.

When Verbal makes bail and collects his personal property at the end of the movie, he’s given back his gold watch and cigarette lighter from the property clerk. It’s an incidental scene that doesn’t seem important, but it’s a clue.

When Keiser Soze shoots Keaton at the beginning of the movie, he’s sporting a gold watch and cigarette lighter. The director makes careful note of that by having him light a cigarette, which lights up his face, leading Keaton to say “I can’t feel my legs… Keiser.” Then Keaton asks him what time it is and we see the gold watch. I only picked that up after watching the movie for the 19th time on Wednesday. What I lack in lightning insights I make up for in dogged persistence.

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Dan Hedaya and Chazz Palminteri

12m.jpgI was at my mom’s house tonight and caught the beginning of a show called “Yes, Dear.” Dan Hedaya (Jeff Rabin in The Usual Suspects) was a guest star. He’s apparently a recurring character.

22m.jpgIn the last day I also saw a Vanilla Coke commercial with Chazz Palminteri (Dave Cujan). With Giancarlo Esposito on Law and Order last Wednesday, it’s old home week.

Giancarlo Esposito

43m.jpgGiancarlo Esposito – who played FBI agent Jack Baer in The Usual Suspects – is on tonight’s new episode of Law &Order. He’s clean-shaven right now, so he looks a little different, but his voice is unmistakable.