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Dr. Ryan: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Kremlinby Daniel Carlson

By Yasmina Tawil

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Tom Clancy was not supposed to be famous. Born in 1947, he grew up middle class in Baltimore and got an English degree from Loyola, where he joined the Army ROTC but was barred from military service because of his poor vision. After school, he got married and worked at an insurance agency that had been founded by his wifes grandfather, and that would have been enoughwould have been a fine life, indistinguishable from a million other livesexcept he decided to try his hand at writing novels in his spare time. He submitted his first manuscript to the Naval Institute Press, which probably seemed like a good fit given his storys military setting and its long stretches of dense technical descriptions. Editors persuaded him to cut a hundred pages of jargon, and that was that: released in 1984, The Hunt for Red October became a runaway hit, earning a jacket blurb from Ronald Reagan on its way to selling 45,000 copies in its first six months and more than 3 million by the time of Clancys death in 2013. His name became a brand for a certain kind of storymilitary espionage potboiler, with an emphasis on technological accuracy and a penchant for verisimilitudeand by the end of his life, his net worth was pegged at $300 million.

You do not get to make that kind of money without Hollywood noticing, and sure enough, the entertainment industry came calling not long after The Hunt for Red October made Clancys name a household one. The film rights were optioned in 1985, and the movie made its way to theaters in 1990. (Clancy wasnt a fan of this or any of the movies made from his books.) This was the start of a film franchise that would continue with adaptations of additional Clancy books, in 1992s Patriot Games and 1994s Clear and Present Danger, at which point it essentially ended. Two attempts to reboot the series2002s The Sum of All Fears and 2014s Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruitflamed out for various reasons, but those later films are also easy to ignore because they took place in different fictional universes, severed from the continuity and consequences of the earlier installments. The first three films made from Clancy books form a trilogy that revolve around the travails of Jack Ryan, a CIA analyst who finds himself drawn into increasingly dangerous situations (politically and physically) in the field, but theyre also much more. Theyre fascinating aesthetic and political documents, charting Americas (and Hollywoods) transition from the Cold War years into the morass of the war on terror. Clancys work came to be emblematic of a certain kind of Boomer mentality: militaristic but wary of the system, interventionist but iffy on the outcome. His breakthrough novel and subsequent successes mined the Cold War for story and emotion, but the Soviet Union disbanded not long after his career got started, leaving a vacuum into which no other clear villain could ever successfully be placed. To watch the films now, more than twenty years after the last installment, is to skip like a stone across the surface of the cultural paranoia that rippled in the wake of perestroika. Theyre metaphors for themselves in many regards, and viewed through the right lens, they cohere into a single image of what it was like to live through the time of their making.

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The first film is, inarguably, the best. Released in March 1990, The Hunt for Red October is a taut chase movie and stellar action film that never sacrifices intelligence for excitement. Alec Baldwin stars as Jack Ryan, a CIA analyst recruited to suss out the truth behind a special kind of Soviet submarine with silent-propulsion technology. The submarine in question is the Red October, piloted by Captain Marko Ramius (Sean Connery), who, disillusioned with the Soviet navy, plans to defect to the United States with a few loyal officers. His Soviet commanders, learning of this, not only begin chasing Ramius, but also tell the American National Security Adviser that Ramius plans to launch nuclear warheads into the States, thereby roping their adversaries into the hunt. Ryan is the only one who suspects Ramius true plan, so he sets out to intercept him before anybody else can.

Theres a beautiful simplicity in that structure, as every scene and subplot are tied to the central question: who will catch the sub? John McTiernans skill as a director of movies like this cant be overstatedprior to this hed helmed Predator and Die Hard, refining the rulebook on 1980s Hollywood action filmmakingbut he also moves effortlessly between sharply choreographed, fantastically directed action sequences and equally effective moments of character development and contemplation. There are assured, believable performances here, including Baldwins affable Jack Ryan, whos scrambling to keep up with the situation at hand; Scott Glenns Bart Mancuso, the commander of a U.S. sub thats pursuing Ramius; James Earl Joness Admiral Greer, the wise mentor who brings Jack into the situation; and Sam Neills Vasily Borodin, the second-in-command on the Red October who just wants to escape to a peaceful life in America. Adapted by Larry Ferguson and Donald Stewart, the screenplay strips the story to its essence, blending sociopolitical brinksmanship with thriller tropes in a way thats consistently entertaining, even today. It was also a financial success, meaning a sequel was inevitable.

Read more


Dr. Ryan: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Kremlin by Daniel Carlson

By Yasmina Tawil

image

Tom Clancy was not supposed to be famous. Born in 1947, he grew up middle class in Baltimore and got an English degree from Loyola, where he joined the Army ROTC but was barred from military service because of his poor vision. After school, he got married and worked at an insurance agency that had been founded by his wife’s grandfather, and that would have been enough—would have been a fine life, indistinguishable from a million other lives—except he decided to try his hand at writing novels in his spare time. He submitted his first manuscript to the Naval Institute Press, which probably seemed like a good fit given his story’s military setting and its long stretches of dense technical descriptions. Editors persuaded him to cut a hundred pages of jargon, and that was that: released in 1984, The Hunt for Red October became a runaway hit, earning a jacket blurb from Ronald Reagan on its way to selling 45,000 copies in its first six months and more than 3 million by the time of Clancy’s death in 2013. His name became a brand for a certain kind of story—military espionage potboiler, with an emphasis on technological accuracy and a penchant for verisimilitude—and by the end of his life, his net worth was pegged at $300 million.

You do not get to make that kind of money without Hollywood noticing, and sure enough, the entertainment industry came calling not long after The Hunt for Red October made Clancy’s name a household one. The film rights were optioned in 1985, and the movie made its way to theaters in 1990. (Clancy wasn’t a fan of this or any of the movies made from his books.) This was the start of a film franchise that would continue with adaptations of additional Clancy books, in 1992’s Patriot Games and 1994’s Clear and Present Danger, at which point it essentially ended. Two attempts to reboot the series—2002’s The Sum of All Fears and 2014’s Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit—flamed out for various reasons, but those later films are also easy to ignore because they took place in different fictional universes, severed from the continuity and consequences of the earlier installments. The first three films made from Clancy books form a trilogy that revolve around the travails of Jack Ryan, a CIA analyst who finds himself drawn into increasingly dangerous situations (politically and physically) in the field, but they’re also much more. They’re fascinating aesthetic and political documents, charting America’s (and Hollywood’s) transition from the Cold War years into the morass of the war on terror. Clancy’s work came to be emblematic of a certain kind of Boomer mentality: militaristic but wary of the system, interventionist but iffy on the outcome. His breakthrough novel and subsequent successes mined the Cold War for story and emotion, but the Soviet Union disbanded not long after his career got started, leaving a vacuum into which no other clear villain could ever successfully be placed. To watch the films now, more than twenty years after the last installment, is to skip like a stone across the surface of the cultural paranoia that rippled in the wake of perestroika. They’re metaphors for themselves in many regards, and viewed through the right lens, they cohere into a single image of what it was like to live through the time of their making.  

///

image

The first film is, inarguably, the best. Released in March 1990, The Hunt for Red October is a taut chase movie and stellar action film that never sacrifices intelligence for excitement. Alec Baldwin stars as Jack Ryan, a CIA analyst recruited to suss out the truth behind a special kind of Soviet submarine with silent-propulsion technology. The submarine in question is the Red October, piloted by Captain Marko Ramius (Sean Connery), who, disillusioned with the Soviet navy, plans to defect to the United States with a few loyal officers. His Soviet commanders, learning of this, not only begin chasing Ramius, but also tell the American National Security Adviser that Ramius plans to launch nuclear warheads into the States, thereby roping their adversaries into the hunt. Ryan is the only one who suspects Ramius’ true plan, so he sets out to intercept him before anybody else can.

There’s a beautiful simplicity in that structure, as every scene and subplot are tied to the central question: who will catch the sub? John McTiernan’s skill as a director of movies like this can’t be overstated—prior to this he’d helmed Predator and Die Hard, refining the rulebook on 1980s Hollywood action filmmaking—but he also moves effortlessly between sharply choreographed, fantastically directed action sequences and equally effective moments of character development and contemplation. There are assured, believable performances here, including Baldwin’s affable Jack Ryan, who’s scrambling to keep up with the situation at hand; Scott Glenn’s Bart Mancuso, the commander of a U.S. sub that’s pursuing Ramius; James Earl Jones’s Admiral Greer, the wise mentor who brings Jack into the situation; and Sam Neill’s Vasily Borodin, the second-in-command on the Red October who just wants to escape to a peaceful life in America. Adapted by Larry Ferguson and Donald Stewart, the screenplay strips the story to its essence, blending sociopolitical brinksmanship with thriller tropes in a way that’s consistently entertaining, even today. It was also a financial success, meaning a sequel was inevitable.

Read more


Getting the Gold Watch: Famous Actors Who Went Into Retirement and the Films that Drove Them There by Rob Thomas

By Yasmina Tawil

image

Whether a ditchdigger, an astronaut or a film critic, weve all had that moment: Take this job and shove it. We just cant imagine ourselves getting up and going through another day of work. The thought of hanging it up, accepting the gold watch and retiring early is just too tempting.

In cinema, however, its pretty rare to see an actor or actress actually walk away from the business. Plenty are shown the door involuntarily, as has-beens and never-wases find Hollywood to be an unforgiving place. But to walk away from film acting while youre still a bankable star? Pretty rare.

But some movie stars have hung up their spurs before their time and never (okay, almost never) looked back. In looking over this list of films, we see two gender trends, neither of them very appealing. There are some beloved older actors who walked away from Hollywood, grown cranky at the changing industry. And we see some younger but still vital actresses who found themselves having to choose between a flagging career and starting a family.

Heres a look at some of cinemas most famous retirees, along with the final films that may have pushed them into early retirement.


No list of cranky ex-actors would be complete without Gene Hackman, the character actors character actor. Hackman seemed like an irascible old coot even when he was playing Popeye Doyle in the original French Connection at the tender age of 41.

So its no surprise Hackmans battered, take-no-bullshit give-no-bullshit authenticity became even more appealing as he aged. In the year 2000 alone, he memorably played the eccentric family patriarch of Wes Andersons The Royal Tenenbaums and an aging thief in David Mamets Heist.

Then came 2004, and Welcome to Mooseport. Hackman played the former President of the United States, who runs for mayor of a small town and ends up embroiled in a political race with a local (Ray Romano) that turns unexpectedly nasty. Its not a good film, and an enjoyably cranky Hackman performance gets lost in sitcom subplots.

And just like that, at the age of 74, Hackman was done. He now spends his time writing historical novels, and told a GQ interviewer in 2011 that hed only do another movie if they could shoot it in his house, only had a crew of one or two people, and didnt break anything while they were there. Somebody should take him up on it.

Sean Connery probably wouldnt even go that far. The first James Bond walked away over a decade ago from a long and successful career in Hollywood and seems to have never looked back. He left after a flurry of roles that were likely lucrative but not well-received, including The Avengers and First Knight. He was actually quite good in one attempt at serious Oscar-bait acting, Gus Van Sants Finding Forrester, but it was an outlier.

The straw that broke the camels back was The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen in 2003, a bloated action-fantasy franchise with only the flimsiest connection to the Alan Moore comic book series. Connerys grandfatherly charm was lost in a mess of bad CGI effects and incomprehensible action. As Allan Quartermain, Connery looks positively pissed off at certain points during the movie.

Not long after the film tanked at the box office, he announced through a spokesman that he would never do another film because he was fed up with the idiots… the ever-widening gap between people who know how to make movies and the people who green-light the movies.“ Connery has done a couple of voice acting roles, most notably returning to the role of 007 for a From Russia With Love video game, but thats it.

Carrying more of a question mark next to his name is Jack Nicholson, who has not announced his retirement, but hasnt made a movie since 2010s How Do You Know and has no projects in the works. Like Connery and Hackman, hes expressed distaste with the current state of Hollywood moviemaking.
His part in How Do You Know (itself coming off a three-year break for Nicholson) seems like a favor to his friend, writer-director James L. Brooks, with whom he had worked on Terms of Endearment and As Good As It Gets. Here, Nicholson plays the heavy, a bullying and corrupt financial tycoon who is the father of Paul Rudds nice-guy character. One gets the sense that it wasnt this role that has kept Nicholson away from Hollywood ever since, but it didnt help.

image

So, three actors, all able to walk away into retirement while still highly employable in movies, if they werent always getting the best roles. It speaks to the power imbalance between men and women in Hollywood that they were able to amass such long, illustrious careers and then leave on their own terms, simply because they tired of the work.


For actresses, its often a different story. The examples of well-known actresses going into retirement often feature women in their 30s and 40s, not their 70s, facing both Hollywoods notorious antipathy towards older actresses and the demands of family.

Read more


Getting the Gold Watch: Famous Actors Who Went Into Retirement and the Films that Drove Them There by Rob Thomas

By Yasmina Tawil

image

Whether a ditchdigger, an astronaut or a film critic, we’ve all had that moment: Take this job and shove it. We just can’t imagine ourselves getting up and going through another day of work. The thought of hanging it up, accepting the gold watch and retiring early is just too tempting.

In cinema, however, it’s pretty rare to see an actor or actress actually walk away from the business. Plenty are shown the door involuntarily, as has-beens and never-wases find Hollywood to be an unforgiving place. But to walk away from film acting while you’re still a bankable star? Pretty rare.

But some movie stars have hung up their spurs before their time and never (okay, almost never) looked back. In looking over this list of films, we see two gender trends, neither of them very appealing.  There are some beloved older actors who walked away from Hollywood, grown cranky at the changing industry. And we see some younger but still vital actresses who found themselves having to choose between a flagging career and starting a family.

Here’s a look at some of cinema’s most famous retirees, along with the final films that may have pushed them into early retirement.


No list of cranky ex-actors would be complete without Gene Hackman, the character actor’s character actor. Hackman seemed like an irascible old coot even when he was playing Popeye Doyle in the original French Connection at the tender age of 41.

So it’s no surprise Hackman’s battered, take-no-bullshit give-no-bullshit authenticity became even more appealing as he aged.  In the year 2000 alone, he memorably played the eccentric family patriarch of Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums and an aging thief in David Mamet’s Heist.

Then came 2004, and Welcome to Mooseport. Hackman played the former President of the United States, who runs for mayor of a small town and ends up embroiled in a political race with a local (Ray Romano) that turns unexpectedly nasty. It’s not a good film, and an enjoyably cranky Hackman performance gets lost in sitcom subplots.

And just like that, at the age of 74, Hackman was done. He now spends his time writing historical novels, and told a GQ interviewer in 2011 that he’d only do another movie if they could shoot it in his house, only had a crew of one or two people, and didn’t break anything while they were there. Somebody should take him up on it.

Sean Connery probably wouldn’t even go that far. The first James Bond walked away over a decade ago from a long and successful career in Hollywood and seems to have never looked back. He left after a flurry of roles that were likely lucrative but not well-received, including The Avengers and First Knight. He was actually quite good in one attempt at serious Oscar-bait acting, Gus Van Sant’s Finding Forrester, but it was an outlier.

The straw that broke the camel’s back was The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen in 2003, a bloated action-fantasy franchise with only the flimsiest connection to the Alan Moore comic book series. Connery’s grandfatherly charm was lost in a mess of bad CGI effects and incomprehensible action. As Allan Quartermain, Connery looks positively pissed off at certain points during the movie.

Not long after the film tanked at the box office, he announced through a spokesman that he would never do another film because he was “fed up with the idiots… the ever-widening gap between people who know how to make movies and the people who green-light the movies.“ Connery has done a couple of voice acting roles, most notably returning to the role of 007 for a From Russia With Love video game, but that’s it.

Carrying more of a question mark next to his name is Jack Nicholson, who has not announced his retirement, but hasn’t made a movie since 2010’s How Do You Know and has no projects in the works. Like Connery and Hackman, he’s expressed distaste with the current state of Hollywood moviemaking.
His part in How Do You Know (itself coming off a three-year break for Nicholson) seems like a favor to his friend, writer-director James L. Brooks, with whom he had worked on Terms of Endearment and As Good As It Gets. Here, Nicholson plays the heavy, a bullying and corrupt financial tycoon who is the father of Paul Rudd’s nice-guy character. One gets the sense that it wasn’t this role that has kept Nicholson away from Hollywood ever since, but it didn’t help.

image

So, three actors, all able to walk away into retirement while still highly employable in movies, if they weren’t always getting the best roles. It speaks to the power imbalance between men and women in Hollywood that they were able to amass such long, illustrious careers and then leave on their own terms, simply because they tired of the work.


For actresses, it’s often a different story. The examples of well-known actresses going into retirement often feature women in their 30s and 40s, not their 70s, facing both Hollywood’s notorious antipathy towards older actresses and the demands of family.

Read more


Goldfinger, Perhaps The Greatest James Bond Film, is Also Super Freaking Weird by Rob Thomas

By Yasmina Tawil

image

Every couple of years between now and the end of time, we can probably count on a new James Bond movie opening. It could be really good. It could be great. It could be fantastic. It could be The Third Man mixed with Lawrence of Arabiawith a dash of Raiders of the Lost Ark thrown in.

And it will still be seen as the second best James Bond movie.

The reigning champion, after over 50 years, remains...

Read more


“Goldfinger”, Perhaps The Greatest James Bond Film, is Also Super Freaking Weird by Rob Thomas

By Yasmina Tawil

image

Every couple of years between now and the end of time, we can probably count on a new James Bond movie opening. It could be really good. It could be great. It could be fantastic. It could be The Third Man mixed with Lawrence of Arabia with a dash of Raiders of the Lost Ark thrown in.

And it will still be seen as the second best James Bond movie.

The reigning champion, after over 50 years, remains...

Read more

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