En­chant­ing, ex­plod­ing New Mex­ico

Pasatiempo - - Art in Review - Rob DeWalt and Robert Nott

In the Os­car-nom­i­nated 2009 film Crazy Heart, New Mex­ico serves as both the Land of En­chant­ment and the Land of Re­demp­tion for the lead char­ac­ter, fad­ing coun­try-west­ern star Bad Blake ( Jeff Bridges). Santa Fe never looked bet­ter— so much so that a lo­cal was heard to pro­claim at a re­cent screen­ing, “It’s beau­ti­ful. I want to live there!”

While Crazy Heart has picked up three Os­car nom­i­na­tions (the New Mex­ico-shot Trans­form­ers: Re­venge of the Fallen got one too), many other movies shot here and re­leased last year (some of which are still play­ing in lo­cal cin­e­mas) de­pict New Mex­ico as a place where gi­gan­tic ro­bots, can­ni­bal­is­tic hu­man preda­tors, wit­nesses on the run, and ar­changels con­gre­gate to cause may­hem. Here’s a par­tial list of films that were shot in the state last year and largely ig­nored by the Academy. (What gives?)

The Book of Eli Den­zel Wash­ing­ton is the man car­ry­ing around one of the last Bi­bles on Earth, and the bad guys want it. Much of this sci­encefic­tion film was shot in and around Carrizozo (pop­u­la­tion about 935), which ben­e­fited fi­nan­cially from the shoot. Dirk Nor­ris, pres­i­dent of that town’s cham­ber of com­merce, said the film com­pany hired about 60 lo­cals to work on the film, used one of the lo­cal junk­yards to pro­vide crushed cars, and “even rented a pile of red bricks!”

Car­ri­ers The 28 Days Later of New Mex­ico cin­ema, this postapoc­a­lyp­tic chiller is about young sur­vivors of an avian virus who trek west in search of safety and a cure. Shot in 2006 and qui­etly dumped on the mar­ket last year, it’s ac­tu­ally a well-acted (al­beit slow-mov­ing) drama that fans of the genre will en­joy. And it once again proves that if you need a des­o­late waste­land for your film, there’s no bet­ter place than New Mex­ico.

Did You Hear About the Mor­gans? New Mex­ico dou­bled for Wy­oming — but still looked like New Mex­ico— in this so-so com­edy about a mar­ried but sep­a­rated cou­ple (Hugh Grant and Sarah Jes­sica Parker) who en­ter a wit­ness pro­tec­tion pro­gram and find them­selves milk­ing cows and shoot­ing guns in the still-wild-West. Hugh also bumps into a griz­zly bear— then runs!

Ac­cord­ing to wildlife bi­ol­o­gists, that’s the worst thing you can do in such a sit­u­a­tion. You’re bet­ter off play­ing dead (like Elmer Fudd did in that old Bugs Bunny car­toon) or climb­ing a tree that’s at least 33 feet tall, be­cause griz­zlies can climb short trees. Plus those bears can run up to 30 mph, so car­ry­ing a lad­der to help you get up a tree quickly is prob­a­bly a good idea too.

Le­gion Shot re­ally close to home (the main shoot­ing lo­ca­tion was in Gal­is­teo, and Gar­son Stu­dios on the Col­lege of Santa Fe cam­pus was also used), this silly end-times/zom­bie-an­gel thriller co-star­ring Den­nis Quaid and Sling Blade’s Lu­cas Black adds to New Mex­ico’s lengthy list of films about Ar­maged­don and the apoca­lypse. It could have used a few more rewrites and brain­storm­ing ses­sions be­fore pro­duc­tion be­gan, though. The bud­get for this fea­ture-length di­rec­to­rial de­but by spe­cial­ef­fects vet­eran Scott Ste­wart (he worked on Harry Pot­ter and the Goblet

of Fire, Red Cliff, and Iron Man, to name a few) came in at around $26 mil­lion, and with just $50 mil­lion in world­wide sales so far, Le­gion is a Sony pro­duc­tion with mid­dling suc­cess that will never meet the

box-of­fice-bust­ing num­bers of an­other Sony film, Spi­der-Man (more than $821 mil­lion world­wide). But if Peter Parker’s han­dlers ever want to blow up the planet, New Mex­ico’s deserts— and its film crews— stand at the ready. In the mean­time, Marvel’s Thor will be swing­ing its ham­mer around Santa Fe to shoot a few scenes beginning in March.

The Spy Next Door Al­bu­querque, play­ing it­self in this film, is nearly in­dis­tin­guish­able from any other burg, be­cause you rarely see it. With the tag line “Spy­ing is easy, babysit­ting is hard,” it’s easy to as­sume that a good por­tion of this film was shot in­side a cookie-cut­ter sub­ur­ban Al­bu­querque home. In the film, Jackie Chan takes an­other stab at kid-friendly action by play­ing an un­der­cover CIA agent who must pro­tect his fi­ancée’s kids from Rus­sian mob­sters. Per­haps it’s bet­ter that Al­bu­querque pretty much fades into the back­ground in this one. It’s a stinker.

How­ever, Katharine Schroeder, a for­mer as­sis­tant to Chan, kept a detailed photo blog of the star’s ac­tiv­i­ties in New Mex­ico dur­ing the shoot, which you can view on Chan’s of­fi­cial Web site, jack­iechan.com. Ac­cord­ing to the blog, pri­mary lo­ca­tion shoot­ing of in­te­rior scenes took place not in an Al­bu­querque home, but at Hy­att Re­gency Ta­maya Re­sort & Spa at Santa Ana Pue­blo. The Spy Next Door isn’t half as en­gag­ing as Schroeder’s blog is. For in­stance, did you know that Chan vis­ited Santa Fe and bought a gi­ant bronze pig and named it Truf­fles? Well, now you do.

Ter­mi­na­tor Sal­va­tion The big­gest ex­plo­sion from this fourth big-screen in­stall­ment of the 25-year-old Ter­mi­na­tor fran­chise didn’t hap­pen on the screen, but it still made a com­pelling piece of au­dio that turned ac­tor Chris­tian Bale into an in­stant YouTube sen­sa­tion. Think of it as the mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar hissy fit heard ’round the world. De­spite Bale’s em­bar­rass­ing pub­lic tongue-lash­ing of a di­rec­tor of photography, his poor act­ing, and the film’s near-to­tal ab­sence of fun, TS has still raked in more than $372 mil­lion world­wide. TS was filmed pri­mar­ily in New Mex­ico at Al­bu­querque Stu­dios, Taos, (specif­i­cally, the Río Grande Gorge Bridge), Kirt­land Air Force Base, and Greer Gar­son Stu­dios.

In it, New Mex­ico is in­dis­tin­guish­able from any other place that’s been cine­mat­i­cally blown to bits by ro­bots from the fu­ture ... or is it the past? It’s con­fus­ing— ask the De­cep­ti­cons. Hal­cyon Hold­ing Corp., the com­pany that owned the rights to the Ter­mi­na­tor fran­chise dur­ing

TS’s pro­duc­tion, didn’t fare too well af­ter the film’s release, and filed for bank­ruptcy in Au­gust 2009. Last month, Hal­cyon sold the rights to the fran­chise to Paci­fi­cor— a Cal­i­for­nia hedge fund— for just $30 mil­lion plus con­tin­ued prof­its with the release of each new Ter­mi­na­tor film ($5 mil­lion per pic­ture). So yes, there’s still a chance that “He’ll be back.” But prob­a­bly not in New Mex­ico, if the state’s film in­cen­tives fly the coop.

Trans­form­ers: Re­venge of the Fallen De­spite an Os­car nom­i­na­tion for Best Sound Mix­ing and brag­ging rights for hav­ing one of the most com­mer­cially suc­cess­ful box-of­fice runs of 2009, Michael Bay’s loud and eye­ball-blud­geon­ing se­quel to his 2007 hit Trans­form­ers is now get­ting at­ten­tion for some­thing else. It was an­nounced last month that

Trans­form­ers: Re­venge of the Fallen, or T:ROTF (tee-hee), has tied Land of the Lost for the most Razzie Award nom­i­na­tions this year (seven). Bay has long been held in high es­teem among the ar­chi­tects of the Golden Rasp­berry Awards, given in an an­nual cer­e­mony that rec­og­nizes the worst films of the year and is held the day be­fore the Academy Awards. Bay has been nom­i­nated this year for worst di­rec­tor, and the film picks up noms for worst pic­ture, worst ac­tress, worst re­make, worst screen cou­ple, worst sup­port­ing ac­tress, and worst screen­play. Re­gard­less of box-of­fice per­for­mance, crit­i­cal praise, or lack thereof, there’s some­thing co­zily full-cir­cle about the fact that so many post-apoc­a­lyp­tic-themed films have made use of White Sands Na­tional Mon­u­ment — a re­gion of the coun­try where a real-life apoca­lypse moved closer to be­ing such an eas­ily at­tain­able goal in the first place.

Year One When Pasatiempo movie critic Robert Ben­ziker re­viewed this film, he noted, “It’s al­ways en­ter­tain­ing to see co­me­di­ans clown their way through the an­cient world, and even bet­ter when the ‘ an­cient world’ is ac­tu­ally your back­yard. Year One was filmed in such fa­mil­iar lo­cales as White Sands Na­tional Mon­u­ment and Ca­ballo Lake State Park. We’re used to see­ing New Mex­ico on the big screen by now, but it tick­led my fancy to see early man and bib­li­cal fig­ures goof­ing off in the state.” The plot has some­thing to do with cave­men meet­ing char­ac­ters from the Bi­ble. In­ci­den­tally, New Mex­ico played home to other pre­his­toric crea­tures dur­ing the Cre­ta­ceous, Juras­sic, and Tri­as­sic pe­ri­ods, in­clud­ing Tyran­nosaurus Rex’s dis­tant cousin Al­ber­tosaurus, whose de­scen­dants even­tu­ally opened a chain of gro­cery stores. Some­body should film a movie in one of those! ◀

Book ’em: direc­tors Al­bert Hughes and Allen Hughes with Den­zel Wash­ing­ton do­ing lo­ca­tion shoot­ing in New Mex­ico for The Book of Eli

Dis­tin­guished Razzie re­cip­i­ent Michael Bay dur­ing the film­ing of

Trans­form­ers: Re­venge of the Fallen

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.