It was the sort of email a man waits his entire life to get. "Sounds like there's a lot of film criticism in Playboy this month," read the subject line from Indiewire critic and editor Eric Kohn. And with that, I dutifully trudged down to the local newsstand and bought a copy of Playboy, the December 2012 issue. For work! God, my life is fantastic.
And, yes, there's the old line about reading Playboy for the articles, but you can't tease any cinephile who says it about this issue: it is absolutely, um, stacked with film content. The cover story is entitled "The Nude Marilyn;" reflections on Marilyn Monroe by author John Updike and film critics Roger Ebert and Kim Morgan. Here's Morgan on Monroe's brilliance and her enduring appeal:
"She wasn't stupid. And most self-respecting Marilyn biographers know she wasn't the dumb blonde. But as much as Marilyn has been written about, with all the usual facts emerging — her pain and her undeniable magic, her epic rise and fall — she still seems, through all these years, misunderstood. Good. For as ubiquitous as she is, she's still mysterious. She's still beguiling."
Then there are the interviews; the longest of which is with "Django Unchained" directed Quentin Tarantino. Michael Fleming gets QT to spill the names of the other actors he considered for the role of Django before selecting Jamie Foxx (Idris Elba, Chris Tucker, Terrence Howard, Michael K. Williams, and, most famously, Will Smith) and talk about his reaction to the shooting in Aurora, Colorado at a midnight screening of "The Dark Knight Rises." There's also an interesting exchange where Tarantino reveals the film that directly inspired "Inglorious Basterds" and its heroes' mission to kill Adolf Hitler:
"There was a movie done in 1942, 'Hitler — Dead or Alive.' It was just as America had entered the war. A rich guy offers a million-dollar bounty on Hitler’s life. Three gangsters come up with a plan to kill Hitler. They parachute into Berlin and work their way to where Hitler is. It’s a wacky movie that goes from being serious to very funny. The gangsters get Hitler, and when they start beating the fuck out of him, it is just so enjoyable. They shave his mustache off, cut off that lock of hair and take his shit off so he looks like a regular guy. The Nazis show up, and Hitler, who doesn’t look like Hitler anymore, is like, 'Hey, it’s me!' And they beat the shit out of him. I thought, Wow, this is fucking hysterical."
That leads into a section where Tarantino explains his motivation for mucking with history the way he does at the end of "Basterds" — and it's a better and more simple argument in favor of the film than I've heard any critic make. It's a great inteview.
But wait! There's more! "Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of 'Psycho'" author Stephen Rebello has an article on "Sex in Cinema" circa 2012, which includes numerous production stills (purely for illustrative purposes). Plus James Franco talks with his "Milk" director Gus Van Sant about his new project, his interest in leaving behind his indie roots to make an action film (!), and his obscure comedy album "18 Songs About Golf" (!!!!!!). There's also an excerpt from a vintage interview with Jack Nicholson, where he tells an amazing story about shooting the campfire scene from "Easy Rider" and smoking almost an entire joint of real marijuana during every single take. He started off sober trying to act stoned but pretty quickly had to act sober while he was actually stoned. Outstanding stuff.
So, yes, there is a lot of film-related content in Playboy this month. It is worth picking up a copy. And if you're not a film fan, I can only imagine there are other interesting aspects of this periodical as well.
Read more of "The Playboy Interview: Quentin Tarantino."