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Remembering James Bond Film Composer John Barry

Barry, who died Sunday at age 77, wrote the scores for 11 Bond films, as well as the theme songs for Goldfinger and Thunderball. Fresh Air remembers the prolific, Oscar-winning film composer with highlights from a 1999 interview.

20:42

Other segments from the episode on February 4, 2011

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, February 4, 2011: Obituary for John Barry; Interview with Lee Unkrich and Michael Arndt; Review of the film "Kaboom."

Transcript

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Remembering James Bond Film Composer John Barry

DAVID BIANCULLI, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli of tvworthwatching.com, sitting
in for Terry Gross.

John Barry, the composer famous for his work on the James Bond films,
died Sunday at age 77. As a tribute, we'll revisit an interview Terry
conducted with him in 1993.

John Barry scored about 100 films and won Oscars for his music for
"Midnight Cowboy," "The Lion in Winter," "Born Free" and "Out of
Africa." But he's most known for his work on the movies of British spy
007. He orchestrated but did not compose the famous James Bond theme
song, but did compose the scores to 11 James Bond themes and the music
for such famous hit movie themes as John Barry's personal favorite,
"Goldfinger."

When Terry Gross spoke to John Barry, he told her what influenced his
arrangement of the iconic James Bond theme music.

Mr. JOHN BARRY (Composer): The James Bond theme is a peculiar mixture of
that low rock guitar figure, if you like, and the brass sound of, like,
the Canton(ph) band and then the bridge: (singing musical notes). It's
almost like a Dizzy Gillespie bebop phrase, you know.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BARRY: So it was this kind of hybrid of all these kind of things
that I was involved with at the time. And I must say I didn't give it
too much thought, and it just came out like it did, you know. I didn't
sit down and intellectualize about it, and I've never read a James Bond
book. I'd only seen like a cartoon strip that they used to have in the
Daily Mail in England.

So I knew it was about a spy. I knew roughly what the essence was, but I
never saw the movie. I just wrote the damn thing, you know.

TERRY GROSS, host:

Well, I love the music. So we have to, right now, hear the James Bond
theme. This is the John Barry Orchestra.

(Soundbite of song, "James Bond Theme")

GROSS: I love it. It's an odd chord at the end, isn't it, that chord
that hangs suspended there?

Mr. BARRY: Yeah, it was laid on fourth and then that – yeah, yeah, yeah.
I mean, it's such a contraction. It's like when you start making a soup,
and you don't know really where you're going, but you make it, and in
the end it kind of tastes okay, you know.

GROSS: I used to love seeing the openings of the movies, you know, in
the Sean Connery days, when the series was new. And, you know, the music
would start, and then Sean Connery would walk onto the scene and then
turn around and pull out his gun as the music swelled behind him. That
was so exciting. What did you think the first time you saw the music
with the whole James Bond, you know, with the whole Sean Connery thing
in it?

Mr. BARRY: Well, when I wrote the theme, I was given the timing. I
wasn't given any action sequence. I didn't know what they looked like or
whatever. And it was like the movie was in release in three weeks time.
It was what we call a wet print when it went into the theaters because
it was so behind.

And then it opened at the Pavilion in Piccadilly in London, and I went
on a Sunday afternoon and saw it, and that was the first time I'd ever
seen "Dr. No."

And I understood that I was just writing the main title theme, but then
every time he says, I'm Bond, James Bond, it laid it in all over the
damn place.

And it worked. You know. I mean, with film there's no middle ground, you
know. It either works, or it doesn't. There's no: Well, it works a
little.' A good score is a score that really works 100 percent, where
you just hit all the buttons.

GROSS: Now you not only did the scores for, you know, 11 James Bond
films, you write the title songs for the films. I want to play one of
those title songs. This is "Goldfinger," sung by Shirley Bassey.

(Soundbite of song, "Goldfinger")

Ms. SHIRLEY BASSEY (Singer): (Singing) Goldfinger, He's the man, the man
with the Midas touch, a spider's touch. Such a cold finger beckons you
to enter his web of sin, but don't go in.

Golden words he will pour in your ear, but his lies can't disguise what
you fear, for a golden girl knows when he's kissed her. It's the kiss of
death from Mr. Goldfinger...

GROSS: That's Shirley Bassey, singing the theme from "Goldfinger," the
song and the score written by my guest John Barry. Were you told: Make
this theme sexually insinuating?

Mr. BARRY: No, they really left you alone. They really just - they said
go away and write it. So I never discussed it with the director or the
producers. I discussed it with myself, and I thought, well, what is this
about? It's a song about a villain.

And then I started to reflect, historically - well, there's no songs
about villains. You don't - you know, people don't sit down and write
songs about villains. They write love songs. They write sad songs. They
write torch songs, whatever.

But songs about villains are very rare. And then I thought of Kurt
Weill's "Mack the Knife," which is the definitive song about a villain.
So then I got my head on right, and I sat down and wrote this rather
strange melody just based on the word Goldfinger as the opening line.
And then I thought, well, who can write the lyric to this?

So Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse also just got a theatrical success
in England called "Stop the World, I Want to Get Off." And I knew Tony
very well. I phoned him, and I said: Look, I've written this song, I've
written the melody, but I haven't got the song. I'd like to meet with
you.

I went out to his home in Hampstead, played him it, and he said: Well,
what the hell is it all about? And I said: It's "Mack the Knife." It's a
song about a villain. And he said: Got it.

Then I worked with Shirley in concerts, and she was very big in England
at that time. And Shirley has this one thing. She has such conviction
about what she does. So I played her the song, and she said: Well, what
in the hell is this about? I said: It's about a villain, Shirley. I
said: Don't think too much about it, Shirley.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BARRY: Just go into the studio and convince the world that you know
what you're doing, and you can do that because I've worked with you in
the theater, and you do this better than anybody else I know.

We then went in and recorded it, and originally, it just started off
with a chorus (humming). And there was no (humming). That wasn't there
then. And we had a break, they went up for their 10-minute tea break.
And in the tea break, I just found that - what we were playing, it was
empty. So I sat down at the piano and I came up with (humming) and did
it on wah-wah trumpets, and we put that in, which just kind of brought
it to life, and then we repeated it down the line.

When Harry Saltzman heard it...

GROSS: He's one of the producers.

Mr. BARRY: He is one of the producers. Harry - I can't tell you what he
said.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: He hated it, huh?

Mr. BARRY: He said: That is the worst mmm-mmm song I have ever heard in
my mmm-mmm life. But we're stuck with it because we don't have any time,
and the movie is coming out. And Guy Hamilton, who was the director, was
- you know, he was in the air force. He's one of the few who fought the
Battle of Britain, and he's very proper and very splendid man. He said:
Well, I don't know whether it's going to be a hit or not, Harry, but I
know dramatically, it works for the movie. And Cubby Broccoli said: I
like it. I like it. Let's do it. Let's do it.

GROSS: Did the success of "Goldfinger" make it obligatory to have a
theme with lyrics for each of the subsequent James Bond films?

Mr. BARRY: Well, why I always demanded writing the music first was that
when you see the whole of the movie of "Goldfinger," the theme runs
throughout the movie, even the whole Fort Knox sequence at the end, the
main (humming).

I mean, I don't like a song stuck on the beginning of the movie because
it's just a song, and then it has nothing to do with the rest of the
movie, which is what happens today. All the Bond songs I integrated
completely into the score, from "You Only Live Twice," "Thunderball,"
Diamonds are Forever." They were the main title song, but they were also
the genesis of the rest of the score.

GROSS: There's something about your "Goldfinger" scores - songs, that
remind me a little bit of the Frankie Lane movie themes, those big
Western anthems that he used to sing.

Mr. BARRY: Well, it's kind of - you know, I did one or two interviews
with the English press at the time, and they said: What it is? And I
said it's million-dollar Mickey Mouse music.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BARRY: Because it's - and it's Wagnerian. I mean, the whole opening
of "Goldfinger" is like this very pretentious (makes sounds), you know.
I mean, it's - but that was the fun of it. You know, and as Fred Astaire
said: Give it size. Give it style. And give it class. And that's like an
incredible Bible to follow.

And hopefully, that's what we did. We just made everything larger than
life, and we made it a lot of fun. So everybody went in, they knew it
was going to be - he'd get the broad, he'd kill the villain, he'd be
happy. And that was the formula. And we enjoyed it on that level.

BIANCULLI: Composer John Barry, speaking to Terry Gross in 1993. More
after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

BIANCULLI: Let's get back to Terry's 1993 interview with composer John
Barry, who died Sunday at age 77. He wrote the film scores for 11 James
Bond films and won Oscars for his music for such films as "The Lion in
Winter" and "Dances with Wolves."

GROSS: There's one more James Bond song that I have to get in here, and
that's "Thunderball," the theme from "Thunderball," sung by Tom Jones. I
think this is just a particularly fun one, also.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BARRY: Well, there's a kind of fascinating story behind that,
because that is probably the worst title for a song you can imagine.

GROSS: Oh, exactly.

Mr. BARRY: You know, and I spoke to Tony Newley about it, actually, and
he says: What do we do? (Singing) Thunderball, marvelous, you should
care for me...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BARRY: I said that's not going to work. I think somebody already did
that. So it was such an abstract title. So they were shooting down in
Nassau, not Nassau County, you know, the island. They were doing all
that stuff down there. And I flew down there, and on the way down I was
reading a magazine, and it said that the Italians had a name for James
Bond now, which was Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, which I thought was really
terrific.

So I thought, instead of using the word Thunderball, why don't we write
a song called Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Cubby absolutely loved it. Harry
loved it. Everybody fell in love with it. So I recorded it. I recorded
it with Dionne Warwick. We recorded it with Shirley.

And then the powers-that-be at United Artists in New York, literally two
weeks before the movie opened, phoned up and said: You know, we need
that "Goldfinger" thing. We need that title over the radio, and Mr. Kiss
Kiss Bang Bang isn't doing it. We need "Thunderball."

So I called up Don Black, and I said: Look, we've got to do this in,
like, no time whatsoever. So I said: What does it mean? And he said: I
don't know what the hell it means. I really don't know what it means.

So I wrote a theme that facilitated the word. Don then wrote the lyric.
He then called Tom Jones. And now the whole Bond thing was being a big
success. You know, you could have called anybody, you know, everybody
now wanted to do Bond songs because of the success that Shirley had had
and the whole aura that was hanging around the movie was...

So Tom came, and then he said, the first thing when he heard it, said:
What the hell is it about? In his Welsh accent: What the hell is it
about? I said: Tom, don't ask. Just take a leaf out of Shirley's book,
get in the studio, sing the hell out of it and leave.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BARRY: Please don't get into it. Just do that. He said: Oh, all
right, okay, I'll do. (Unintelligible), and it was the same move. Just
convince everybody. And he was so convincing. I don't think anybody
really analyzed what the hell he was singing about. And I still don't
know what the song is about to this day. But we were given that problem,
and we have to live with it.

GROSS: The lyricist came up with good ideas for Thunderball: They call
him the winner who takes all, and he strikes like Thunderball.

Mr. BARRY: Yes, Don did, absolutely.

GROSS: A decent solution to the problem.

Mr. BARRY: Yeah, he did actually, in the nick of time, come out with
that line which made it slightly credible, you know.

GROSS: I love these lyrics, they're so funny: His days of asking are all
gone. His fight goes on and on and on.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BARRY: Right, right, right.

GROSS: So you must have had fun doing this. I mean, this is just really
- it's very silly and very fun.

Mr. BARRY: Yeah, talk about a license to kill, it's a license to write
silly and just have great fun, you know. I mean, that was the whole joy
of these movies, that this was not "Citizen Kane," you know.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BARRY: It was just this fun comic strip. So you could just - you
could get away with murder. If this had been a one-off, some guy made a
movie called "Thunderball," and it hadn't had the cache that was growing
up around the whole thing, we'd have been thrown out of the studio. It
was the whole thing just - we were launched. And we could do - you could
do anything really silly, and that was the freedom of it.

And why I left ultimately was because it stopped being wonderful and
silly. It started to be formula, and that's when the fun went out of it,
and once the fun goes out of it, well, there's really no point.

GROSS: Well, it's time to hear "Thunderball," sung by Tom Jones, music
by my guest, John Barry.

(Soundbite of song, "Thunderball")

Mr. TOM JONES (Singer): (Singing) He always runs while others walk. He
acts while other men just talk. He looks at this world, and wants it
all. So he strikes like Thunderball.

He knows the meaning of success. His needs are more, so he gives less.
They call him the winner who takes all. And he strikes like Thunderball.

GROSS: Talk about big arrangements. That is really great. I like the way
you manage to work in the James Bond theme underneath it. It's very
nice.

Mr. BARRY: Yeah, oh, every trick in the book we used, believe me. We
didn't leave anything out.

GROSS: Now, why are minor keys so essential in these Bond themes?

Mr. BARRY: I guess minor keys were essentially my life. I love writing
in minor keys. I adore them. They're just emotionally more fruitful. And
there's a certain - oh, I don't know. There's a certain sense of
tragedy. Although you're playing hokey, if you had to do James Bond in
major keys, it would sound like Mickey Mouse cartoon music. It really
would, you know. It's because you play it in the minor key that it gives
it a weight and a power, you know.

I mean, you know, you listen to Shostakovich, you listen to Prokofiev.
You know, I mean, it's all this minor, heavy - and I'm very, very
influenced. I mean, my greatest loves are the Russian composers,
Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Stravinsky. The Russians have a way with the
minor key that no other people have. And if anybody says what's the
biggest influence in your life, as much as I love Beethoven and a
million other things, it's that Russian attitude, to be able to deal
with a minor key.

GROSS: This is good because Bond was always fighting the Russians. So it
worked well.

Mr. BARRY: Yeah, that wasn't a part of the thing. It just happened to
work out well in that, yeah.

GROSS: Right, right.

Mr. BARRY: But it gives it size. It gives it more sense of drama. If
you'd tried to score the Bond movies in major keys, when you think about
it, it would have been absolutely disastrous.

BIANCULLI: John Barry, speaking to Terry Gross in 1993. The Oscar-
winning film composer died Sunday at age 77. Let's listen to one more
Barry composition, the song they discussed, "Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,"
the original main title theme to "Thunderball." This version wasn't
released until 1990. I'm David Bianculli, and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)
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Pixar's People, At Play With Ideas In 'Toy Story 3'

DAVID BIANCULLI, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli in for Terry Gross. Pixar Studios
"Toy Story 3" is up for five Oscars this year, including an Academy
Award nomination for Best Picture. Only the third time an animated film
has been nominated in that category. And it's the highest grossing
animated film of all time, earning more than a billion dollars
worldwide. We're revisiting an interview Terry Gross conducted with the
film's director, Lee Unkrich, and its screenwriter, Michael Arndt, last
fall.

Lee Unkrich has been with Pixar since 1994. He started there as a film
editor on "Toy Story" and went on to co-direct "Toy Story 2" and
"Monsters, Inc." Michael Arndt won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay
for his first film, "Little Miss Sunshine."

At the beginning of "Toy Story 3" Andy is preparing to leave home for
college. His mother tells him that before he goes, he has to deal with
his toys. She gives him several options: he can take them to college,
store them in the attic, donate them to a day care center, or put them
in the trash. The toys are terrified that, after years of being played
with by Andy, after years of being cared for and loved, after years of
being a little toy community, they will be abandoned and tossed on a
garbage truck. Woody, the wooden toy sheriff voiced by Tom Hanks, tries
to reassure the toys as the toys begin to panic.

(Soundbite of film, "Toy Story 3")

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man #1 (Actor): (as character) We're getting thrown away?

Mr. TOM HANKS (Actor): (as Woody) No, no one's getting thrown away.

Unidentified Man #2 (Actor): (as character) How do you know?

Ms. JOAN CUSACK (Actor): (as Jessie) We're being abandoned.

Mr. HANKS: (as Woody) We'll be fine, Jessie.

Unidentified Man #3 (Actor): (as character) (Unintelligible).

Ms. CUSACK: (as Jessie) Should we leave?

Unidentified Man #4 (Actor): (as character) I thought we were going to
the attic.

Unidentified Man #5 (Actor): (as character) Oh, I hate all this
uncertainty.

Mr. HANKS: (as Woody) Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, hold on. Now wait a
minute. Quiet. No one's getting thrown out, okay? We're all still here.
I mean, we've lost friends along the way, Weezie(ph) and Etch(ph) and Bo
Peep(ph), yeah, even, even Bo, all good toys who have gone on to new
owners.

But through every yard sale, every spring cleaning, Andy held on to us.
He must care about us, or we wouldn't be here. You wait. Andy's going to
tuck us in the attic. It'll be safe and warm.

Mr. TIM ALLEN (Actor): (as Buzz Lightyear) And we'll all be together.

Mr. HANKS: (as Woody) Exactly. There's games up there and books.

Mr. ALLEN: (as Buzz) The race car track.

Mr. HANKS: (as Woody) The race car track, thank you.

Unidentified Man #6 (Actor): (as character) And an old TV.

Mr. HANKS: (as Woody) There you go, the old TV and those guys from the
Christmas decorations. They're fun, right? And some day, if we're lucky,
Andy may have kids of his own.

Unidentified Man #7 (Actor): (as character) And he'll play with us then,
right?

Mr. HANKS: (as Woody) We'll always be there for him.

Mr. ALLEN: (as Buzz) Come on, guys. Let's get our parts together, get
ready and go out on a high note.

TERRY GROSS, host:

That's a scene from "Toy Story 3," and my guests are the director of the
film, Lee Unkrich, and the writer, Michael Arndt. Welcome to FRESH AIR.

Although that scene is, you know, the toys worrying about being
obsolete, I think it speaks to adults, because I think probably a lot of
parents worry about becoming irrelevant in the lives of their children
after their children grow up.

Older adults in the workforce worry about being replaced by younger
workers. You know, a lot of older people worry about becoming obsolete
in their own way. And so I'm wondering, Michael Arndt, writing the film
if you were trying to operate on two levels at the same time, speaking
to emotional fears that adults have, and that children have.

Mr. MICHAEL ARNDT (Screenwriter, "Toy Story 3"): It's funny. When you
first start writing these films, usually what you're trying to do - I
mean, you just sort of have a bag full of disparate ideas, and none of
them quite fit together.

And so your first concern when you take this over, is you're just trying
to make everything fit together on a basic narrative level. And the
scene that you just played, which we called "Growing Up" when we started
writing it, was one of the hardest scenes to write because you're
meeting these characters sort of again for the first time, and you have
to figure out what their expectations for the future are.

And I remember when we first started writing it, we – our thought was
that, well, Buzz is going to be an optimist, and he's going to hope that
they go to college with Andy, and Mr. Potato Head is going to be a
pessimist, and he's going to think they're all going to get thrown out,
and, you know, some other people think, well, maybe we'll go to the
attic. And Woody, you know, is mature enough to say, well, I don't know
what's going to happen.

And the problem with that, the problem with that scenario or that setup,
is that you end up having these endless conversations in which all the
toys stand around and argue with what's about to happen.

And I think – I went back and counted all the drafts that we did of this
scene. We did 60 different drafts of this scene while trying to figure
out, you know, before we got to the final version.

And the big breakthrough was finally deciding okay, they all have
already had this conversation before. They all have decided that they're
going to get put in the attic. This is what happens to toys. This is
part of the natural lifespan of toys, is that you serve, you know, your
kid, you play with your kid, and then if you do a good job, you're going
to get, you know, sort of rewarded with retirement and put in the attic.

And it's a melancholy thing, but it's sort of like you get your watch.
You get your gold watch and the end of your service to your company. And
having set that up, you know, having set up those clear and specific
expectations for the future, then you can have this sort of mishap come
along and disrupt those expectations for the future, and it allows the
character of the other toys to decide they're going to donate themselves
to Sunnyside.

And it was really only after we had set up that sort of narrative
structure that we started to realize how emotional it was and how much
it played into people's fears of obsolescence. And I do think it speaks
to people's – I don't think it's just, you know, old people's fears. I
think everybody goes through life feeling – not everybody, but certainly
a lot of people go through life feeling as though the work they do, the
job they do at work or at home with their kids is unappreciated or
unacknowledged.

And I think feels that sense that, you know, these toys feel like
they've given themselves over to this child Andy, 100 percent, and
played with him and shared so much of his life, and now he's going away.

And they don't – what they don't – they don't want to go with him,
necessarily, to college. What they really want is acknowledgment. And I
think that's a universal thing. I think people - a lot of people sort of
go through life feeling like they work really hard, and they're doing a
good job, and they just want some sort of emotional acknowledgment.

Mr. LEE UNKRICH (Director, "Toy Story 3"): I think that's part of why
people feel so much emotion in that last scene, is that we've created a
moment where the toys are appreciated. They are loved, against all odds,
and they are able to have that glorious feeling one last time. And I
think it speaks to something deeply in a lot of people in the audience
at different points in their lives.

GROSS: Michael, your first film was the screenplay for "Little Miss
Sunshine," and since then, you've been writing for animated characters.
Was it hard for you to start thinking about the interior life of toys,
like how would, you know, how would a dinosaur toy react, how would Mr.
Potato Head react to a transition in his life?

Mr. ARNDT: You have to, as a writer, you can't make any difference, have
any distinction in your head between a live-action character and an
animated character. They're all real characters.

I mean, to me, I feel like Buzz Lightyear is just as real as Olive
Hoover is. You want to be sort of as emotionally honest and intelligent
about what they're going through as you can possibly be. But it does put
you in these sort of odd situations when you're a writer, and suddenly
you have to think: Okay. I'm a little rag doll and I've just been put
into a knapsack. You know, now what do I do? Or, you know, I'm Mr.
Potato Head, and I lose my parts. How do I feel about that?

So there were times when I thought it kind of felt odd to be writing
scenes like that, but you have to take it seriously. Like, you have to
put yourself in that position and say okay, what would I do if I were in
that situation?

And there's times you almost feel ridiculous doing that, but I think
once you make that commitment and your write the characters sort of
honestly and with as much feeling as you can, people respond to that.
People feel it coming through the screen. And you're not condescending
those characters, you're not talking down to them, you're not making fun
of their fears or their concerns.

Even though they're little plastic toys, you have to treat them as
seriously as you treat any other characters.

GROSS: So the toys in "Toy Story 3" end up at a daycare center. And
Woody fears that this is going to be sad and lonely place for washed-up
toys that have no owners.

But then the big, oversized Teddy bear that seems to rule over the toys
gives a different perspective, and this is a Teddy bear called Lots-O'-
Huggin' Bear, known for short as Lotso. And so here's the kind of warm,
inspirational pep talk he gives Andy's toys after Andy's toys are
donated to the daycare center.

(Soundbite of film, "Toy Story 3")

Mr. NED BEATTY (Actor): (as Lotso) Well, hello there. I thought I heard
new voices. Welcome to Sunnyside, folks. I'm Lots-O'-Huggin' Bear, but
please call me Lotso.

Mr. ALLEN: (as Buzz) Buzz Lightyear. We come in – whoop.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BEATTY: (as Lotso) First thing you've got to know about me, I'm a
hugger. Oh, look at you all. You've been through a lot today, haven't
you?

Unidentified Woman #1 (Actor): (as character) Oh, it's been horrible.

Mr. BEATTY: (as Lotso) Well, you're safe now. We're all castoffs here.
We've been dumped, donated, yard-saled, second-handed and just plain
thrown out. But just you wait. You'll find being donated was the best
thing that ever happened to you.

Mr. WALLACE SHAWN (Actor): (as Rex) Mr. Lotso, do toys here get played
with every day?

Mr. BEATTY: (as Lotso) All day long, five days a week.

Unidentified Woman #2 (Actor): (as character) But what happens when the
kids grow up?

Mr. BEATTY: (as Lotso) Well, now, I'll tell you. When the kids get old,
new ones come in. When they get old, new ones replace them. You'll never
be outgrown or neglected, never abandoned or forgotten. No owners means
no heartbreak.

Unidentified Man #9 (Actor): (as character) Yeehaw.

Unidentified Woman #3 (Actor): (as character) It's a miracle.

Unidentified Man #10 (Actor): (as character) And you wanted us to stay
at Andy's.

Mr. HANKS: (as Woody) Because we're Andy's toys.

Mr. BEATTY: (as Lotso) So you got donated by this Andy, huh? Well, it's
his loss, Sheriff. He can't hurt you no more.

GROSS: That's Ned Beatty as Lotso, the overstuffed Teddy bear. So why
did you make the character a bear, the character who - this
inspirational talk, by the way, that he gives is really not the true
Lotso bear because he turns out to be a really mean-spirited tyrant and
does all kinds of awful things to Andy's toys.

But why did you make this character a bear, as opposed to any other kind
of toy, and a stuffed animal, as opposed to, you know, a pull toy or,
you know, a battery toy?

Mr. UNKRICH: Right, well, you know, the idea for Lotso actually came
years ago, before we even had the idea of Woody and Buzz being in a
movie called "Toy Story." When the guys were first kicking around an
idea for what was, what would ultimately become Pixar's first film, they
had an idea for a story set in the world of toys, but it was going to
take place in a giant toy store, like a Toys R Us kind of toy store.

And they envisioned it like a city, where every aisle in the toy store
would be like a different neighborhood, and there would be the good
parts of town and the bad parts of town, and every night all the toys in
the store would come alive, and you'd have this – the whole film would
take place in the toy store.

And they had envisioned kind of a bargain basement aisle, which is kind
of really in the bad part of town.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. UNKRICH: And in that aisle there would be this character named
Lotso, who was the leader of this group of renegade toys, broken toys,
marked-down toys, who would go out and raid the good neighborhoods at
night.

And you know, it was this really funny idea, but it never went anywhere,
and ultimately, you know, they ended up developing what became "Toy
Story" as we know it. But this idea of Lotso, this Teddy bear, just
never went away. It always percolated in the back of our minds.

And so when we started talking about setting the film at a daycare, and
we knew we wanted there to be some seemingly benevolent leader of the
daycare, we almost immediately thought, well, we have to bring back
Lotso, finally.

And we've had that happen quite a few times in our history, where we've
had an idea that seems like a good idea, but there's just not a place
for it. So it ends up getting kind of put up on a shelf somewhere, and
eventually we find the right time to pull it out.

So that's how Lotso came into being, and then once we made that
decision, we thought we would just have as much fun with it as possible
and make him be this bright pink Teddy bear who smells like strawberries
and just seems like the nicest, kindest, most grandfatherly character
you can imagine.

GROSS: So the preschool turns into a prison for Andy's toys, and then
the movie becomes like a prison escape movie. And so did you just sit
down and watch a lot of prison films?

Mr. UNKRICH: Yeah, we did. I mean, we - Michael can attest to the fact
that we spent many a day watching prison escape movies all day long,
every day, to the point where we felt sometimes like we were trying to
break out of prison ourselves.

Mr. ARNDT: The one thing we learned is that there's no such thing as a
short prison movie, basically.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ARNDT: They're all more than two hours long, you know. The shortest
is two hours long.

Mr. UNKRICH: Yeah, we saw one French film in particular, I don't know if
you remember the name of it, Michael, where literally the entire movie
you watch them chip away at concrete, and then in the final minutes of
the film they get busted, and then the movie ended.

GROSS: Oh, that's the perfect stereotype of a certain type of really
boring prison film where they steal the spoon from the dining room and
slowly carve away at the wall, yeah.

Mr. UNKRICH: Exactly, and we wanted to do all that stuff. I mean, I wish
we could've done more. The actual prison-break section of the movie ends
up being just like 20 minutes of the film.

But we, oh my gosh, we had – my story artist came up with so many great
gag ideas. We had one idea where they were kind of digging their way out
and Mr. Potato Head would secret the dirt away inside his butt and then
kind of walk over to the corner and open his butt and dump the dirt out.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. UNKRICH: And I mean, it's just like we tried to – we wanted to have
as many of these kind of great little prison clichés as possible. That's
where the character of the Chatter Telephone came from, the Fisher-Price
Chatter Telephone. Every one of these prison movies has some old guy
who's been in there for life, and he totally knows the lay of the land,
and he knows his way around and somehow travels under the radar, and we
knew we had to have a character like that, and we made this decision to
have it be that Fisher-Price Chatter Telephone that we all either had
when we were kids or knew somebody who had. We thought it would be kind
of a perfect person to be that character.

GROSS: And Michael, what did you get from watching all the prison break
movies?

Mr. ARNDT: Well, I mean, this is the tragedy of screenwriting, is that
you always have, like, 1,000 ideas, basically, and then you have room
for maybe eight of them to go in the final film.

I mean, we had a whole sequence – you know, in a lot of prison films,
you show the preparations that everyone does for escape, like you show
them stealing stuff, and you show them, you know, laying away stuff.

And we actually had a whole sequence like that in the film. We had a
whole sequence where they go steal a bag of marbles, and they go steal
the tortilla, and they go, you know, get everything ready and prepared,
and then we just ended up cutting that whole scene out because it just
slowed the film down. It didn't really lead anywhere.

Mr. UNKRICH: And it was kind of more fun to watch them kind of – to
watch the plan unfold when we didn't even know what the plan was
ourselves. But yeah, we – I mean, I wish I could have those - all those
hours of my life back that we banged our heads against the table trying
to come up with ways for them to break out of prison.

GROSS: So of the hundreds of prison films you watched, your favorite is?

Mr. UNKRICH: Well, I guess the one that kind of has the most overt
references in "Toy Story 3" is "Cool Hand Luke." You know, we have a
great scene where kind of demo-Buzz Lightyear is striding around,
reading the rules of the prison to the toys, very much like in "Cool
Hand Luke."

And certainly the idea of being dragged out into the yard and thrown
into the box for the night came right out of "Cool Hand Luke."

Mr. ARNDT: There's the French film "A Man Escaped" by Robert Bresson,
and we took the little conceit of the guy that – I mean, we had to push
this later in the film, but the guy that you have to bring along, the
guy who looks like he's going to blow it for you is the guy who ends up
– is the guy who ends up saving you in the end.

GROSS: Oh, yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ARNDT: So it was, you know, the little aliens who sort of almost get
left behind, and Woody has to go rescue them, and that gets them into
worse trouble, but at the very end it pays off and they're able to
rescue the rest of the toys, you know, when they finally get to the
dump.

GROSS: My guests are Michael Arndt, the screenwriter of "Toy Story 3,"
and Lee Unkrich, the film's director. "Toy Story 3" comes out on DVD
November 2nd. We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: The animated movie "Toy Story 3" comes out on DVD in a couple of
weeks. My guests are the director of the film, Lee Unkrich, and the
screenwriter, Michael Arndt. Here's another scene from early in the
film. Andy is preparing to leave home for college. His mother orders him
to clean out the stuff in his room as Andy's childhood toys listen in
horror.

(Soundbite of film, "Toy Story 3")

Ms. LAURIE METCALF (Actor): (as Andy's Mom) Okay, Andy, let's get to
work here. Anything you're not taking to college either goes in the
attic, or it's trash.

Mr. JOHN MORRIS (Actor): (as Andy) Mom, I'm not leaving 'til Friday.

Ms. METCALF: (as Andy's Mom) Come on, it's garbage day.

Mr. MORRIS: (as Andy) Mom...

Ms. METCALF: (as Andy's Mom) Look, it's simple - skateboard, college.
Little League trophy - probably attic. Apple core - trash. You can do
the rest.

Ms. BEATRICE MILLER (Actor): (as Molly) Why do you still have these
toys?

Mr. MORRIS: (as Andy) Molly, out of my room.

Ms. MILLER: (as Molly) Three more days and it's mine.

Ms. METCALF: (as Andy's Mom) Molly, you're not off the hook either. You
have more toys than you know what to do with. Some of them could make
other kids really happy.

Ms. MILLER: (as Molly) What kids?

Ms. METCALF: (as Andy's Mom) The children at the daycare. They're always
asking for donations.

Unidentified Person #1 (Actor): (as character) (Whispering) What's
daycare?

Ms. MILLER: (as Molly) But mom...

Mr. METCALF: (as Andy's Mom) No buts. You choose the toys you want to
donate. I'll drop them off at Sunnyside.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Woman #4 (Actor): (as character) Poor Barbie.

Mr. ALLEN: (as Buzz) I get the Corvette.

Ms. METCALF: (as Andy's Mom) Andy, come on. You need to start making
decisions.

Mr. MORRIS: (as Andy) Like what?

Ms. METCALF: (as Andy's Mom) Like what are you going to do with these
toys? Should we donate them to Sunnyside?

Mr. MORRIS: (as Andy) No.

Ms. METCALF: (as Andy's Mom) Maybe sell the online?

Mr. MORRIS: (as Andy) Mom, no one's going to want those old toys.
They're junk.

Ms. METCALF: (as Andy's Mom) Fine. You have 'til Friday. Anything that's
not packed for college or in the attic is getting thrown out.

Mr. MORRIS: (as Andy) Whatever you say, Mom.

GROSS: Lee, you have a story from your own life about accidentally
throwing out toys. Would you tell that story?

Mr. UNKRICH: Years ago, my wife Laura and I were moving from one
apartment to another and packing everything up. And about a month after
we moved to our new place, Laura asked me if I'd seen her beloved
stuffed animals, her childhood stuffed animals.

And I said: What box were they in? And she said, well, they weren't in a
box. They were in a garbage bag. And my blood instantly ran ice cold
because I realized exactly what had happened: I had thrown all of her
stuffed animals away in the dumpster behind our building.

So I feel terrible to this day that that happened, but I do hope that by
immortalizing that moment in the movie, that they somehow have been
immortalized themselves.

GROSS: So did you come up with the premise of "Toy Story 3" because of
this story that we just heard, Lee, of you accidentally throwing out
your wife's stuffed animals?

Mr. UNKRICH: No, that just, that kind of came later. I mean, truly, the
very beginning of this was – you know, we had wanted to make a "Toy
Story 3" for years, ever since "Toy Story 2." And unfortunately, there
were a bunch of kind of boring contractual problems between Disney and
Pixar at the time that prevented us from making a "Toy Story 3," and
that went on for years.

And then finally, just over four years ago, Disney bought Pixar
Animation Studios. We became a part of Disney, and those problems went
away, and we were finally freed up to make a "Toy Story 3."

So at that point, John Lasseter asked me to direct the film, and we then
subsequently went off on a retreat - John and Andrew Stanton, who I know
you've spoken to, and Pete Doctor and a few others. We all went off to a
little cabin.

And it was the same cabin where we had met to come up with the idea for
the first "Toy Story." So we thought it would be good luck to go back to
that place. And we locked ourselves away for two days: no phones, no
Internet, no meetings. And we talked long and hard about what we wanted
"Toy Story 3" to be.

And we're all in agreement right from the beginning that we didn't want
"Toy Story 3" to feel like an arbitrary, grafted-on sequel. You know, I
always had in my mind the movie "The Bad News Bears Go to Japan" as a
model of what we didn't want to do.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. UNKRICH: You know, I mean we could have come up with any number of
stories that just kind of kept the characters alive and sent them off on
some adventure, and - but we didn't want to make the film unless we felt
like we really had something to say.

And ultimately, the most important thing for us was that we wanted to
treat this third film like kind of the completion of a saga, like - as
if we had been telling one grand story over the course of the three
films.

So we looked at it in that way, and what we arrived at pretty quickly
was that it was vital to have Andy grown up and be at that transition
where the toys were on the cusp of no longer being needed or wanted or
loved. And that just seemed like the perfect setting for the story.

GROSS: Lee Unkrich, the director of "Toy Story 3," and Michael Arndt,
the screenwriter. We'll be back in the second half of the show. Their
movie, "Toy Story 3" comes out on DVD in a couple of weeks. I'm Terry
Gross and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. We're talking about making
"Toy Story 3," the highest grossing animated film of all time. It comes
out on DVD November 2nd. My guests are the director of the film, Lee
Unkrich, who also worked on the two previous "Toy Story" films, and the
screenwriter Michael Arndt, who won an Oscar for writing "Little Miss
Sunshine."

"Toy Story 3" starts as Andy is preparing to leave home for college.
He's placed his toys in a big trash bag to be stored in the attic. But
when the bag is accidentally put out with the trash, the poor toys are
thrust into a series of misadventures.

There's one more scene I want to ask you about and I should do a kind of
spoiler alert here because this happens towards the end of the movie. So
if you haven't seen "Toy Story" and you don't want to know an important
plot point at the end, just give us about two minutes and then come
back.

So, okay, so there is a scene toward the end where the toys, through a
terrible mishap the toys are in a garbage truck on the way to the dump
and they get to the dump and they're getting closer and closer to the
end - to the fiery end.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: And what kinds of movies did you watch to get inspiration for
those scenes? And did you actually go to garbage dumps to see
technically what the toys would be experiencing?

Mr. UNKRICH: Yeah. You know, none of that stuff at the end of the movie
came out - came from seeing any movies at all but we certainly did do a
lot of research. We visited the Altamont dump and went to a number of
other landfills. And a lot of the details that are at the end of the
film came directly out of having visited those places at night and that
they are just these crazy, dark, windy places. There's trash blowing
around. It's very overwhelming and these giant bulldozers are moving
around with their brilliant bright lights blinding everybody. I mean I
think we did a good job capturing what it's like to be there at night in
the film.

But once the toys head on the conveyor belt into the kind of the waste
processing center it was really all made up. A lot of it came from
little details in little snippets of things that we had seen but we kind
of twerked(ph) everything around and did what we wanted with it to make
the film very exciting. And, of course, it all leads to the climax of
the toys ending up in an incinerator.

And we knew that we were making up something that would never exist in
life. It would be an EPA nightmare to think that all this trash would
just be burned and smoke belched into the sky.

But for us it just seemed like just the perfect dramatic end for the
toys. I wanted the toys to end up in a situation that was truly the end.
It's a strange philosophical question to talk about toys being alive and
when does their life end just because they are seemingly immortal. But I
knew that if they were heading into a fire where they would burn up,
that that was the end. There is no life beyond that. And I wanted them
to be on the brink of not existing anymore.

And we spent a lot of time working on that sequence very, very carefully
because, you know, we wanted it to be emotionally truthful and we knew
it had the potential to be very powerful. And thus, we never wanted the
toys to be screaming and acting silly, you know, certainly not cracking
jokes at all. And we ended up with the scene where the toys have nothing
left to do but hold each other's hands, squeeze their eyes shut and face
their end with kind of a quiet grace and dignity.

GROSS: So when you were in the garbage dump what did it smell like?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. UNKRICH: Oh, I only wish I could send that odor out into the -
through the radio to your listeners so they can experience what we did.
All I remember - well, it did smell bad. I thought immediately of the
movie "Silence of the Lambs." There's a scene where Jodie Foster is
given some goop to put under her nose so she doesn't have to smell a
body at a crime scene, and I wished I had that stuff.

But my only other memory of that, of the odor was when we were looking
at the claw. There was a giant room that had had a huge claw just like
the one in the movie and it was grabbing kind of handfuls of trash. I
had a video camera on my shoulder and I was trying to hold it very
steady to film reference footage of this claw. And the reason it was
hard for me to hold steady was that I had flies crawling all over my
face and arms the entire time I was shooting. So it was not a pleasant
experience.

We like to joke that, you know, Pete Doctor got to go down to Venezuela
to Angel Falls for "Up," and Brad Bird got to, you know, wing off to
Paris and eat in five-star restaurants and the extent of our research
was tromping around a stinky dump.

GROSS: So are there ways that you started to examine the world
differently, knowing that you were writing from the point of view of
toys? And, you know, that you were not only writing from the point of
view of a child but from, like, stuffed animals and a wooden cowboy and
a plastic Tyrannosaurus rex.

Mike, let me ask you, 'cause you're newer to this.

Mr. ARNDT: When we are in a story meeting and we're trying to figure
this stuff out, we usually go to the human analog. Like, we usually - we
don't talk about well, if I were a rag doll, or well, if I were a
plastic dinosaur. We start talking about - because you want to get to
the emotional truth of this story and you want to get the emotional
truth of these characters and so you go, okay, well, Woody is - you
know, he's a little bit like a helicopter mom, he's a little bit like a
mom who can't let go of her child, you know?

Mr. UNKRICH: And so we always try and figure out, you know, what is the
human equivalent of one of these characters. But then the fun thing is
once we have that figured out, we then try to find ways of making their
issues particularly a toy's issues.

I mean, Ken was a great instance...

GROSS: Is this Ken as in Ken and Barbie?

Mr. UNKRICH: Michael and I...

GROSS: Yeah.

Mr. UNKRICH: Exactly. Ken of Ken and Barbie. You know, Michael, I don't
know if you had any Ken dolls when you were growing up. I certainly
didn't.

(Soundbite of laughter)

But my friend's little sisters did and we made endless fun of Ken. I
mean, Ken is just a whipping boy and...

GROSS: In the movie I should say his masculinity is always being called
into question.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. UNKRICH: Yeah. I don't know if his masculinity to some degree but
it's more that, you know, we thought well what does it feel like to be a
guy who's a girl's toy? You're a guy but you're only played with my
little girls. And then further he's just an accessory to Barbie. You
know, he doesn't carry equal weight with Barbie. He's really no more
important than a pair of shoes, or a belt, or a purse to her. And we
knew that he would have to have a complex.

Mr. ARNDT: Yeah, I know, it's - I mean that's one of the things that's
such a pleasure working on a film like this is that you go, okay, well
what - you know, what are going to be issues of a character like Ken.
Like, what's going to be to the thing that, like, keeps them awake at
night, you know? And, you know, immediately you come into the fact that
we he may be a little insecure about the fact that really he's a girl's
toy. You know?

And maybe he's in denial of that and then you - suddenly this whole sort
of richness opens up and the fact that, you know, what do Ken and Barbie
do? All they do is, you know, they sort of have their accessories and
they have their clothes. So when they meet for the first time I had to
think as a writer, well what are they are going to say to each other?
Like, what is the thing that they're going to have in common?

And it's of course it's just the fact that they have all these different
clothes and so you have to think well, these characters probably love
clothes and they remember all the different collections from all the
different years. And so, you know, when they first meet, the first thing
is, you know, he compliments her on her leg warmers and she compliments
him on his ascot and you realize, oh my god, these were made for each
other.

And then when they sort of break up at the end and they are at odds with
each other, what's the one thing that Barbie can do to sort of torture
Ken and get some information out of him. She's going to, you know,
attack his wardrobe and start ripping them to pieces.

GROSS: A lot of people report having cried at the end of "Toy Story 3."
Michael, when you writing the film, were you thinking yeah, they'll
really be tearing up at this scene? Were you thinking about that at all?

Mr. ARNDT: You don't think that at all. You just think, oh my god, I
hope this works, I hope people like this. But I remember when I wrote
the first draft, I wrote it in sequence. I wrote it chronologically.

So I started off, you know, with scene one, and then scene two, and it
took me about six weeks, maybe six to eight weeks, to write the first
draft. And I remember, you know, so I felt like as I was writing the
story I was experiencing it with these characters.

And you see them go through all these travails and, you know, these
betrayals and all these terrible things happen to them and through the
whole story, Woody keeps insisting, no Andy still cares about us. I know
it doesn't seem that way but I know he still cares about us.

And I remember get to the, you know, going to my office, sitting down to
write the final scene and I say, okay, I have to figure out what Andy's
going to say when he hands over Woody and I - you know, these words I
just start hearing Andy's voice saying Woody's brave like a cowboy
should be and kind and smart but the thing that makes him special is
that he'll never give up on you.

And as I was writing this, like, I couldn't help but just get all choked
up and I, you know, had little tears coming down my eyes because I felt
like I had been on that journey with those characters. You know, and
that's when you know that a script is working when you have that
response as you're writing it.

So, you know, I remember just finishing the scene and there was kind of
an odd moment where I finished it and then I sort of walked out, you
know, of the door in my office to take a break and everybody was just
sort of going about their business as though nothing had happened.

And in my own mind, you know, there had been this huge, huge thing that
had happened. You know, that Andy had given away Woody and, you know, I
was just - I felt a little silly but I felt like I - you know, you had
hit the target that you had set up for yourself. So this is very
gratifying to see that other people end up, you know, experiencing that
scene the same way.

GROSS: Well, I want to thank you both so much for talking with us. It's
been great to talk with you.

Mr. ARNDT: Thank you very much.

Mr. UNKRICH: Yeah, thank you, Terry, it was great to be here.

DAVID BIANCULLI: "Toy Story 3," director Lee Unkrich and screen writer
Michael Arndt speaking to Terry Gross last year.

Their movie is up for five Oscars, including best picture and it's the
highest grossing film in that category. Coming up, David Edelstein
reviews "Kaboom." This is Fresh Air.
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'Kaboom': Innuendo, With A Graphic-Novel Punch

DAVID BIANCULLI, host:

With his breakout film of the living end and the doomed generation in
the early 90s and mysterious skin in 2005, director Gregg Araki became a
leading figure in gay independent cinema. His new comedy, "Kaboom,"
features college students with a somewhat fluid sexuality. Kaboom is now
playing in New York and L.A. and also is available as pay-per-view
feature on IFC on Demand.

Film critic David Edelstein has this review.

DAVID EDELSTEIN: "Kaboom" is a free-wheeling sex comedy with a punch of
a graphic novel and a glow that's positively unearthly. The reds, blues
and violets are radiant verging on radioactive. While the buildings on
the college campus where it's set loom like giant spaceships against the
night sky.

The sex, of which there is a lot, is central to how writer-director
Gregg Araki's characters orient themselves to the world. That's orient
in all senses.

Eighteen-year-old Smith played by Thomas Dekker, declares his sexual
orientation to be "undeclared." He leans gay, but when women throw
themselves at him, he's magically open, eager for new discoveries. He's
a gorgeous, dreamy-eyed young man with a super-hot blond lesbian best
friend, Stella, played by Haley Bennett, who's hilariously blasé and
wears short-shorts with clear-plastic thigh-high boots. And when they
sit on the grass, and share notes on their lovers, their platonic vibe
is hot, hot, hot.

With all its eye candy and over-the-top innuendo, "Kaboom" is borderline
camp, but I'm happy to say that it never spills over. For starters, camp
was created to satirize so-called heterosexual "normalcy" — whereas
what's normal here is fluid or undeclared. The movie doesn't have any
straight straights to parody. The characters' emotions are pure, their
libidos purer. Smith can barely contain himself around his shaggy-blond
roommate, whose name is Thor, and he's equally smitten by Thor's friend
Rex. But he is also drawn to a madcap British femme called London,
played by Juno Temple, first seen in a red cone hat and fluffy lavender
shawl.

She summons Rex to their cafeteria table while Smith cringes in
embarrassment.

(Soundbite of movie, "Kaboom")

Mr. ANDY FISCHER-PRICE (Actor): (as Rex) Hey.

Mr. THOMAS DEKKER (Actor): (as Smith) Uh, Rex, this is my friend London,
London, Rex.

Ms. JUNO TEMPLE (Actor): (as London) You look lonesome. Want some
company?

Mr. FISCHER-PRICE: (as Rex) Sure, thanks.

Ms. TEMPLE: (as London) We were just talking about sex.

Mr. DEKKER: (as Smith) She's just kidding.

Ms. TEMPLE: (as London) So, Rex. Have you ever heard of the Kinsey
scale?

Mr. FISCHER-PRICE: (as Rex) Huh?

Ms. TEMPLE: (as London) It's a rating system for sexual orientation.
With zero being totally hetero. And six 100 percent gay. Smith here is
probably a three or four. While I'm more like a 1.5.

Mr. DEKKER: (as Smith) Why don't we talk about something else?

Ms. TEMPLE: (as London) Kinsey discovered that any five to ten percent
of the population are a six or a zero. What do you think your number is?

Mr. FISCHER-PRICE: (as Rex) Zero, I guess.

Ms. TEMPLE: (as London) Boring.

EDELSTEIN: Dr. Kinsey would have a stroke watching "Kaboom," but I bet
he'd die happy.

Yet that title is meant to suggest both orgasm and apocalypse. From the
start of the film, there's an aura of dread. Smith is having bizarre and
ominous dreams about what will happen on his 19th birthday, and while
he's falling in and out of beds, he's stalked by men in masks of tigers
and apes. Did he witness the murder of a red-haired woman, or was it a
hallucination? It's gradually clear that the world awaiting the young
and sexually liberated isn't so pretty.

With "Kaboom," Gregg Araki has outdone himself, which is saying a lot.
Starting in the early '90s with his satirical AIDS fantasia, "The Living
End," he's turned pop culture inside-out to explore his generation's
collective unconscious. In his 2005 movie, "Mysterious Skin," he
burrowed into the heads of child sex-abuse victims — into their mystical
visions and horror of their bodies. Then he turned around and made the
stoner comedy, "Smiley Face," which shouldn't have bombed. I liked its
uninhibited silliness, and loved Anna Faris as the unemployed actress
who accidentally eats a batch of pot cupcakes and drops the last
surviving original manuscript of the Communist Manifesto from a Ferris
wheel.

"Smiley Face"'s loony cartoon style clearly loosened Araki up, and the
mixture of tones in "Kaboom" is exhilarating — part Blake Edwards, part
David Lynch. As Smith explores his sexuality, the Lynch-like riddles of
his childhood return with a vengeance. He tries to get answers from his
highly sexed mom, played by Kelly Lynch, about the dad he was told died
in a car accident. Somehow, because of what happened before Smith was
born, the fate of the world now hangs by a thread.

I suspect that, on some crazy level, today's college freshmen, with
their adventurous, unfettered sexuality and end-of-civilization
anxieties, will be able to relate. "Kaboom" could be their anthem.

BIANCULLI: David Edelstein is film critic for New York magazine.
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Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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