According to this morning's Cynopsis' email newsletter (6th item), Peter Bogdanovich's next "film" will be Hustle. What is Hustle you ask? It seems to be the story of Pete Rose's gambling life according to Major League Baseball. Oh, and I guess he might shoot it on film, but it's actually a TV movie made for (sigh) ESPN.
Peter, what happened to you? I'm not even going to get into the issue of whether or not Hustle deserves to be a movie. I think it will probably be fairly boring, but it's natural material for ESPN as they continue to find a way to develop more original programming. But back to you, Peter: Why can't you get a good job or make a good movie anymore? You were such a brilliant young filmmaker in the 70s, albeit occasionally uneven. The Last Picture Show and Paper Moon are essential viewing for anyone looking at that decade of film history. What's Up Doc? is definitely a guilty pleasure. And even though they may be flawed, Nickelodeon, Saint Jack and They All Laughed each have their moments (not to mention some great performances). You even had a big commercial success with Mask. So then what happened?
I don't want to dwell on the tragedies of your life, but did Dorothy's murder sap all your talent? I know it didn't destroy your brain because you remain one of the smartest, most well-spoken and most knowledgable film historians alive today. I mean, that was before Mask, but your next movie was the unwatchable Illegally Yours. Then your return to Larry McMurtry country with the Last Picture Show sequel Texasville was missing all the nuance, moodiness and style of the original; instead it felt like an episode of a crappy, cornball 80s nighttime TV soap. I'll admit to being a big fan (when I first saw it) of your adaptation of Noises Off ..., but to me that was your last gasp. The Thing Called Love was mercifully released in (I believe) just one city for one week. Yes, you had to suffer another tragedy with the death of your star, River Phoenix, before release, but that's not why the movie was sleep-inducing awful.
Since then, it's been all TV movies, which of course is not automatically bad, but I wonder if his TV projects come about because he can't get anything else funded in the film world. He's made a couple films for Showtime, but otherwise, it's been pretty standard fare -- most recently, the relatively mediocre The Mystery of Natalie Wood. His one feature in the past 10 years was The Cat's Meow which due to its historical Hollywood scandal subject-matter should have been ripe material for a Bogdanovich comeback. He also had the benefit of a great cast featuring Kirsten Dunst, Edward Herrmann and Eddie Izzard channelling Charlie Chaplin. But when I finally saw the film, I was bored silly.
So what is it Peter? Do you even know? Can't you turn some of your brilliant abilities to analyze film onto your own productions and then fix your work? Can you see why it's hard to believe that The Last Picture Show and The Cat's Meow were made by the same filmmaker? The former full of life and emotion; the latter a bitter creation filled with caricature and stick-figures dancing around a period set-piece. And most importantly, is ESPN the only place that will hire you?
Please Peter, do something. I'd much prefer to see you writing books or making documentaries about those heroes of cinema history than further diluting your own resume with crap. It's just too painful to see one's heroes give up.
On that note, I'm reminded that a berating of Brian De Palma is due, and will be forthcoming in the near future.