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#035 Sam Mendes: American Beauty vs. Spectre

Download MP3 In today's episode Nate and Austin compare Sam Mendes' best and worst rated films, American Beauty (1999) and Spectre (2015), respectively. Nate is creeped out by Daniel Craig's kissing, Austin wishes he was the one who got to kiss Kevin Spacey, and they're both clearly lifelong James Bond fans. Check back next Sunday at 7pm PST where we will compare Adam McKay's The Big Short (2015) and Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013), his best and worst rated films.
Also check out this behind the scenes clip from American Beauty:

Spectre Notes

Worst Rated

PLOT: A cryptic message from Bond's past sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister organization. While M battles political forces to keep the secret service alive, Bond peels back the layers of deceit to reveal the terrible truth behind SPECTRE.
  • Ratings: IMDb 6.8 | RT 65% C / 62% A
  • Released: 2015
  • Director: Sam Mendes
  • Writer(s): John Logan and Neal Purvis & Robert Wade and Jez Butterworth (screenplay), John Logan and Neal Purvis & Robert Wade (story), Ian Fleming (characters)
  • Cinematographer: Hoyte Van Hoytema (Her, Interstellar, The Fighter)
  • Notable actors: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Lea Seydoux, Ralph Fiennes, Monica Belluci, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Dave Bautista
  • Budget: $245 million
  • Box office: $880.7 million
  • Fun Facts:
    • First Bond film not to feature the iconic trumpet playing of Derek Watkins. Since Dr. No (1962), Mr Watkins had featured on the soundtrack of every single Bond film until his passing away shortly after the release of Skyfall (2012).
    • English actor Gary Oldman was approached for the role of Franz Oberhauser but he was unwilling to commit to six months production worldwide. In the end, the part was cast with Christoph Waltz.
    • Reportedly, director Christopher Nolan was being seriously considered to direct this film until Sam Mendes decided to come back for another film. Associate producer Gregg Wilson has said: "Christopher Nolan would be a 'dream' choice for a future Bond director. We would of course be interested to have a discussion with him. We would like to do the same type of movie. It would be a dream to be with Nolan. But we always have an open mind when it comes to directors.
    • When out in the Moroccan desert, the production had to make sure that everyone within a twenty mile radius knew to expect loud explosions, the locations department drove out to speak to nomad tribes and village folk. Indeed, local nomads were hired as guides and security throughout the explosions preparation and filming.
    • Since this film does not use an original Ian Fleming story title, there are still only four unused original titles remaining: "The Property of a Lady", "The Hildebrand Rarity", "Risico" and "007 in New York" (aka "Agent 007 in New York"). The word "Hildebrand" does appear in the name of a "rarities" shop in this film.
    • Italian model and actress Monica Bellucci previously auditioned for a Bond Girl role prior to being cast in Spectre (2015). In 1997, in an interview with 'Playboy' magazine, former James Bond actor Pierce Brosnan said that Bellucci had screen-tested for one of the two leading Bond Girl roles, as Paris Carver, in Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), the part in the end being cast with American actress Teri Hatcher. Brosnan said: "Monica Bellucci is a ravishing beauty - a gorgeous, gorgeous woman. She screen-tested to be a Bond girl a while back, and the fools said no. Teri Hatcher stole the day instead".

American Beauty Notes

Best Rated

PLOT: A sexually frustrated suburban father has a mid-life crisis after becoming infatuated with his daughter's best friend.
  • Ratings: IMDb 8.4 | RT 88% C / 93% A
  • Released: 1999
  • Director: Sam Mendes
  • Writer(s): Alan Ball
  • Cinematographer: Conrad L. Hall (Road to Perdition, Cool Hand Luke, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid)
  • Notable actors: Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening, Thora Birch, Wes Bentley, Mena Suvari, Peter Gallagher, Allison Janney, Chris Cooper, Scott Bakula, Sam Robards, Barry Del Sherman, Ara Celi, John Cho
  • Budget: $15 million
  • Box office: $356.3 million
  • Fun Facts:
    • When Lester throws the asparagus, he was supposed to throw it on the floor. The reactions of Annette Bening and Thora Birch are genuine.
    • Director Sam Mendes designed the two girls' look to change over the course of the film, with Thora Birch gradually using less makeup and Mena Suvari gradually using more, to emphasize his view of their shifting perceptions of themselves.
    • The title of the film refers to a breed of roses that while pretty and appealing in appearance, is often prone to rot underneath at the roots and branches of the plant. Thus, the tagline "...look closer" tells the viewer that when they look beyond the "perfect suburban life," they will find something rancid at the root.
    • According to his Oscar speech, screenwriter Alan Ball was sitting at the World Trade Center plaza when he saw a paper bag floating in the wind and was inspired by it to write the film, which was originally conceived as a stage play.
    • Kevin Spacey improvised everything he does in the car while his character is stoned and singing to "American Woman."
    • Since Thora Birch was barely 17 years old at the time she made the film, and thus classified as a minor in the United States, her parents had to approve her brief topless scene in the movie, and they and child labor representatives were on the set for the shooting of it.
    • Wes Bentley was the first actor to read for the part of Ricky, and was asked to do the scene where he describes his reaction to the plastic bag; the casting director felt that although she had read that scene numerous times, his reading was the first time she felt she understood the meaning of it.
    • Wes Bentley smoked honey tobacco with Kevin Spacey for the pot-smoking scenes.
    • Jake Gyllenhaal and Seth Green auditioned for the role of Ricky Fitts.
    • This film and The Silence of the Lambs (1991) are the only Best Picture winners in the 1990s to not be a period piece.
    • Chris Cooper was the last actor cast, virtually when rehearsals were beginning. When he first read the script, he found the character infuriating, thinking, "God, do I want to spend so much time in this character's head?" He remembers, "Then I started making excuses...I said, this is such a negative script, I don't like this and that." His wife finally told him he was "frightened of this script and chances are because you're frightened, you should do this part;" his response was that he "knew, really immediately, that she was right."
    • Director Sam Mendes personally filmed the pivotal POV shot of Ricky's camera when he zooms past the figure of Angela to "look closer" at Jane's smiling reflection in the mirror.
    • On the DVD's Audio Commentary, Alan Ball reveals that he came up with Angela's line, "You're defending him, you love him, you wanna have, like, ten thousand of his babies," during an U2 concert after hearing a fan screaming to Bono that she wanted to have ten thousand of his babies.
    • The scene where Lester is putting in an application for the counter job at Smiley Burger was actually shot at night, but it was later fixed to look like the daytime. Notice that neither Lester nor the burger kid have shadows on their faces from the sun.
    • Executive producer Steven Spielberg personally recommended Sam Mendes to direct this film.

  Intro music: Calm The Fuck Down - Broke For Free / CC BY 3.0  

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