Posted tagged ‘Steve McQueen’

More on Steve McQueen: Behind the Music

May 22, 2009


This just in from one of our Twitter followers in Madison, WI: a super-cool radio show epsiode from WSUM’s Movie Music and Trivia Show that features the music of Steve McQueen films. DJ Catherine Garcia has put together an incredible playlist that reads like a who’s-who of the best talents in film composing world, including Elmer Bernstein, Henry Mancini, John Williams and the inimitable Lalo Schifrin.

Check out the podcast and hopefully it will get you jazzed for our Steve McQueen series which is playing through May 26th.

And even though The Blob didn’t make it into our series, you have got to listen to the first track on this show, from the film:

“Beware of the Blob, it leaps and creeps and glides and slides across the floor…” Too funny!

Awesome piece, guys, thanks for the creativity! And be sure to check out The Sand Pebbles fan site, it’s devoted to “McQueen’s best film” in the site creator’s opinion. You can see The Sand Pebbles here on Monday afternoon, or check out some other films in the series and pick your own favorite.

Yesterday’s Loner, Today’s Honoree: Talking Steve McQueen with the Film Society’s Josh Strauss

May 18, 2009


“That’s Ironweed,” Josh Strauss told me.

I admitted I’d never seen it.

“Meryl Streep’s best performance. Jack Nicholson at the top of his game. But impossible to find. Impossible.”

He should know. Strauss, programming associate for Film Society of Lincoln Center, had had a long history trying to find prints, trying to keep them vibrant and in tip-top shape. It’s what he did before he came here for independent distributors in New York and L.A.

“That and acting,” he said. “For about five minutes.”

Mr. Strauss had made a career of loving movies, remembering them in 35 and trying to find the best way they could be shown in a theater.

“Lincoln Center is full of intellectuals,” Mr. Strauss told me. “People doing brilliant work on the aesthetics of film, doing retrospectives on that.” He gave me at least a little bit of a smile. “I can’t offer that. What I can offer are the movies I loved to see when I was a kid.”

Those movies take the form of the series Yesterday’s Loner: Steve McQueen, a retrospective of the actor’s work on films as diverse as Enemy of the People, where he plays a small town doctor fighting to keep pollutants from a river, to The Magnificent Seven, where he embodied a sort of American samurai.

And though McQueen certain has a range, he was known best as a sort of action hero, a cowboy-badass of the type that would later make Clint Eastwood a legend.


“I did a retrospective of Charlton Heston and, well, I’d put him in the same category,” Mr. Strauss said.

His office was lined with the posters of the retrospectives he’d done and the movies he loved, including the one I had been staring at, Ironweed.

“I’m old enough to remember seeing him, seeing Steve McQueen on film.” Strauss recalled. “He was an authority to me in Saturday Afternoon matinees; a power.”

The Steve McQueen series, screening May 20th-26th at the Walter Reade theater, is lined with guest appearances by prominent McQueen collaborators, people like Candice Bergen and Robert Vaughn. “You know, Norman Jewison said The Cincinatti Kid was the first movie that he ever felt like a filmmaker,” Strauss reported. “Now 44 years later, he’ll be back to say that again, introducing the film.”

“Finding prints for movies,” Josh told me, “you just try to show things while they’re there, while they’re good. These prints of Steve McQueen’s films are still good. And people haven’t forgotten him, they just haven’t seen the movies.”

And talking, looking at the man, his posters, his enthusiasm: I felt excited for the chance now.

-Nicholas Feitel

Yesterday’s Loner: Steve McQueen runs from May 20-26 at the Walter Reade Theater. Tickets are on sale now online.

Rediscovering a screen legend: some thoughts on Steve McQueen

May 18, 2009


When the filmlinc blog asked me to write something about Steve McQueen, I jumped at the chance without even thinking about it.

Then I started thinking about it. What if they meant the other Steve McQueen, the very much alive, Afro-British visual artist who made Hunger, which I haven’t even seen? Because I don’t know anything about that one.

They assured me that it was the Steve McQueen, the one with the motorcycles and fast cars and stunts—the one I know, the King of Cool. The anxiety turned to relief in my belly, then bloomed outward with a sigh. Right then I began to comb my brain for Steve McQueen. I remembered that my dad once told me he was the coolest movie star in the world. I went to middle school with his granddaughter, I saw him thwart the amorphous gelatin threat of communism know as the Blob. I saw him help Yul Brenner bury an Indian, bed Jacqueline Bisset, save Natlie Wood from an abortionist, escape the Nazis in the biggest, most memorable of ways, and star in a Ford commercial twenty years after his death.

I got my pen out. I realized didn’t know who they were asking me to write about.

I began thinking about how Steve McQueen compared to the other cool guys. Kinghood is something else entirely though, something reserved for Elvis, or Michael Jackson, or Jesus Christ, and being the king of cool is akin to being the king of ‘men.’ So what makes Steve McQueen the king, among the Newmans and Brandos and James Deans? Our “culture of cool” is not as saturated with McQueen’s image as it is with, say, Dean’s. His cool is not one that inspires the millions to buy sunglasses, or his hometown to construct a Steve McQueen Museum. His cool won’t print a billion shirts (though it did inspire some cars), or paint lunchboxes for children in Asia. It’s rather the angst-less, emotionless sort of cool that makes us think he wasn’t acting at all, that came so easily that we think we can be the same. Thus, the kind of cool that might inspire a film like The Tao of Steve, a vapid indie rom-com about a fat and unintelligent stoner who uses a Steve McQueen state of mind to lay lots of beautiful women. Because everyone believes in Steve McQueen. And why not? Motorcycles and fast cars, women, movie studios and the men in charge of them—Steve McQueen could get them to do whatever he wanted them to do.

I went and learned some more about Steve McQueen. That he wouldn’t be in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid because he couldn’t get them to put his name ahead of Paul Newman’s on the poster (thankfully he’d let the Blob take top billing ten years earlier). Yes, lots of actors turned down lots of famous parts, but McQueen’s turndowns reads like an AFI list. He was the Hollywood star that supported the Vietnam war, and refused to back the Kennedys. Clearly a man who didn’t much care what people thought. Words like “rebel” and “detached” spring to mind. But even those leave something out. If that was all he was, I doubt he would still matter to us today.

Legend has it that McQueen removed some of his own lines in The Towering Inferno, because he thought he was better than Paul Newman, and wanted to show that given the same amount of time and dialogue, he could outshine his co-star. It wasn’t that he didn’t care what people thought of him—he cared tremendously—he just didn’t much care to do what they wanted him to. He never pandered, and always seemed outside of the system somehow, while always in and further sought by it. He was our hero because he said he wasn’t, and couldn’t and wouldn’t be. He once said that he wasn’t sure if he was an actor or racer first. But he also said that he believed he was beautiful (his words) and cool. He didn’t know what exactly he was, but it didn’t matter. Because whatever it was, he believed in it. Which was enough to make everyone else believe too. Cool.

-Jason Lee

ED.’S NOTE: You can catch tons of the McQueen classics, from Towering Inferno to Bullitt to The Getaway, starting this Wednesday at the Film Society. Yesterday’s Loner: Steve McQueen runs May 20-26, 2009, see full schedule.

The Week Ahead May 14-21: Try to resist the King of Cool

May 13, 2009


Back by popular demand! Being Jewish in France examines the explosive Dreyfus Affair, the Vichy government’s collaboration with the Nazis, the absorption of Sephardic Jews from Arab countries in the decades after WWII. Director Yves Jeuland masterfully brings together an extraordinary constellation of French-Jewish voices and experiences. May 13-19

The King of Cool. Steve McQueen reigns the Film Society starting next Tuesday with a set of smoldering classics. If you’ve never seen the original Thomas Crown Affair, you ain’t seen nothing yet, people. But don’t miss the lesser-known gems: Nevada Smith allows the Western gunslinger in McQueen out in full force, and The Cincinnati Kid is, according to Time Out New York, the “best movie about poker ever made.”

If your latest game left you all cleaned out, biking is free. It’s Bike Month, and we’re celebrating it at the Film Society in a big way: enjoy two totally FREE events on sustainable transportation tonight and next Tuesday. And don’t forget to check out Bike Flick Picks from the Film Society’s resident cycle commuters.

Hunger director McQueen on “how an extraordinary situation becomes ordinary”

October 8, 2008

From our friends at Filmcatcher, a video interview in which Turner Prize-winning visual artist Steve McQueen talks about developing the true story of IRA member Bobby Sands into a film, shooting in “real time” and immersing himself in the prison setting of his film.

Film Comment reports: McQueen’s Hunger

October 4, 2008

“They had successfully created this world like a sphere that, wherever it rolled, would be right.”

-Steve McQueen discussing the actors’ performance in Hunger [watch a short clip of the NYFF press conference here]

Hunger (directed by Steve McQueen) is miraculously well constructed for a debut feature. It vividly (and all-too fecally) details the lives of imprisoned IRA members in a manner (at first) so relentless that the viewer is given no time to take stock of the events from a own perspective or outside of the film’s reality. The flashes of contemporary resonance give it urgency, but the lack of complexity in terms specific current events keep the viewer’s mind constricted to the point of incarceration. The extreme graphic violence (not to mention the political-zombie subtext), oddly recall George Romero, but in McQueen’s case quickly justifies itself before the gruesomeness becomes too much of a diversion. The action-packed first half, a thrill-ride of brutality, comes to a screeching halt, just in time to keep the movie from falling into torture-porn territory. In a 20-minute-long shot of absolute stillness and calm, we enter a zone (a visiting room) of chaperoned contemplation. At this juncture, a classic prison confession scene, the viewer is given a myriad of readymade perspectives to digest everything we’ve just experienced.

Hunger is undeniably impressive in its construction; many critics will call it monumental—and they’re probably right. But, unlike the Hungers of the past, both Knut Hamsun’s and Tony Scott’s, McQueen’s impenetrable perfection of form allows for no leakage of thought. The failures, extreme subjectivities and ambiguities of more open-ended artwork permits slippages in and out of the narrative world, promoting complex and unpredictable responses. The Hunger of ’08 never takes a misstep, and thus the film, with its viewers following closely in tow, can only take one route. In its depiction of both sides of the struggle, McQueen refuses to reveal his hand, thereby playing it all too safe.