As I’ve said before, I don’t watch all that many documentaries. It isn’t that I don’t like them; it’s just that, over the years, I’ve found so many that I have watched to be guided by some overarching political message that I might disagree with, so I feel a bit out of place in reviewing many of them. Every now and then, however, I stumble across one that tickles my fancy, piques my interest, and tells me something substantial about the world in which I live; so I give it a spin. SOMETHING’S GONNA LIVE is essentially a collection of memories from some of Tinseltown’s most respected and most acclaimed artisans of their craft (art directors, cinematographers, and storyboardists). Not all of it is a perfect delight, but something’s certainly gonna live on in the message these peers want shared with audiences.
(NOTE: The following review may contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and characters. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last two paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
Academy Award nominated director Daniel Raim (“The Man on Lincoln’s Nose”) presents a series of videotaped conversations and reflections from no less than six craftsmen who spent decades at the top of the Hollywood game working with some of the industry’s most legendary directors (including DeMille and Hitchcock). While the majority of the observations center on Robert Boyle (NORTH BY NORTHWEST and IN COLD BLOOD), Mr. Boyle spends the course of his senior years visiting with other luminaries he met and worked with along the way. These include:
Henry Bumstead was an accomplished art director who worked on such films as THE STING, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, and MILLION DOLLAR BABY; Conrad L. Hall was a cinematographer who worked on such films as MARATHON MAN, AMERICAN BEAUTY, and ROAD TO PERDITION; Harold Michelson was an art director who worked on such films as MOMMIE DEAREST, TERMS OF ENDEARMENT, and DICK TRACY; Albert Nozaki was an art director who worked on such classic films as THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, THE WAR OF THE WORLDS, and THE BIG CLOCK; and Haskell Wexler was a cinematographer and director who contributed to such films as ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST, IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT, COMING HOME, and scores of others.
Together, these men reminisce about their fledgling days in a competitive field. While not all of what they recall necessarily leads a modern audience into any earth-shaking secrets about filmmaking or the filmmaking process, there are plenty of examinations about how the process has changed throughout the years; and all of it is buttressed with some honest hope about how their various crafts will once again find expression in a town that’s largely given up legitimate spectacle in favor of computerized artifice. Consistently, it’s a narrative presented by men who largely remain ‘the last of their kind,’ and it’s always respectful, vivid, and relatable.
SOMETHING’S GONNA LIVE is produced by Adama Films, Spiderwood Productions, and Spiderwood Studios. DVD distribution is being handled by New Video. As for the technical specifications, there’s a significant portion of this production that was shot on relatively traditional home video cameras, so there’s some noticeable graininess, though I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that that’s precisely what director Raim wanted – after all, what loving valentine to classic film wouldn’t show the good, the bad, and the ugly of the filming process? Furthermore, the disc is chocked full of special features – a welcome surprise for a documentary – including the Oscar-nominated short film “The Man on Lincoln’s Nose”; some deleted scenes (nothing all that grand or revelatory); an excerpt from Robert Boyle’s AFI Master Class; conversations between Conrad Hall and Robert Boyle; some additional observations from filmmaker Haskell Wexler; the original theatrical trailer; artists’ biographies; and some PDFs on DVD-ROM.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. As the media materials clarify, these are conversations with “six great Hollywood cinema artists.” These are not contemporary flashes-in-the-pan who are here today and gone tomorrow. The collective input reflects contributions to some of the most revered films of a generation, including THE BIRDS, NORTH BY NORTHWEST, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, VERTIGO, IN COLD BLOOD, THE WAR OF THE WORLDS, and even others get some passing mention. Film students would be wise to take these humble lessons to heart, and film enthusiasts might find some anecdotes here exciting. This isn’t gossip. This is reflection on the world they inhabited as well as the state of the heart. If that’s up your alley, then you’ll enjoy it ‘til your heart’s content.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at New Video & Docudrama provided me with a DVD screener copy of SOMETHING’S GONNA LIVE for the expressed purposes of completing this review.