On my TV's program grid yesterday, I noticed that the MGM Channel was showing a 1988 movie titled, The Boost. It didn't have any stars listed. I don't know if this was an oversight, or an editorial comment, but I had to laugh since in my days doing such things, I was the unit publicist assigned to the movie.
To be fair, it is most definitely not that bad, a zero star movie. It's actually got a passable cast -- James Woods is the star, along with Sean Young (as well as Steven Hill, who played D.A. Adam Schiff for years on Law & Order). And it's other credentials are okay. It was directed by Harold Becker, who directed The Onion Field and Sea of Love with Al Pacino, among others. And the screenplay was by Daryl Ponsican, whose films include The Last Detail and Cinderella Liberty. So, whatever it's flaws (which were many), it is not a no-star movie.
The biggest problem with the film, I think, is likely the source material, based on a novel by (of all people) Ben Stein. Yes, that Ben Stein. Former speechwriter for Richard Nixon. And "Ferris Bueller's" teacher. In fairness, I didn't read the book. But the story is a pontificating one about a fast-liver, though reasonably good guy who starts taking cocaine with his wife, and their big-time lives spin more and more out of control. The whole movie is just one long, depressing slide downhill into hell. (I got the sense -- and I could be very wrong about this -- that the story was a Ben Stein Morality Play about the Evils of Liberalism when you let "If it feels good, man, do it" be your guiding force.) And among the last people I want to be preached to about anything is Ben Stein. Again, maybe his novel is totally different, a complete happy joyride, and the story completely different. I'm just going to guess not.
But the movie is pretty-well acted and respectably directed. So, annoying, seedy and soul-crushing as the story is, it's still really not worth a rating of no stars. This isn't just personal bias -- particularly since I have no bias of love for the film. I didn't care much for it. But Roger Ebert gave it 3-1/2 stars. That's way too high (no pun intended, I don't know what he was thinking), yet even Leonard Maltin, who didn't like it, still gave 1-1/2 stars.
I didn't work on the whole movie, from start to finish, but was only assigned to it for a short period, enough to write a press kits and do biographies on all the major principals. It was my second movie working with James Woods (or "Jimmy," as he preferred to be called). We got along fine, and he's a very bright guy -- he went to M.I.T. -- though he's a bit of a...well, let's say, mercurial fellow. A very good raconteur, and he was a pleasure to talk with, even if those talks were usually monologues, and I tended to wander in another direction if he wasn't feeling especially sporting that day.
The other movie I worked on that he starred in was Salvador, directed by Oliver Stone. How's that for a film with mercurial personalities...?! Boy, was Oliver a ball of energy. I actually got along quite well with him, to my surprise since we were quite different folk -- but he even asked for me to do the P.R. on his next film, though for very a long explanation (that includes mis-communication) I passed on it. "It" being...er, Platoon. Which of course ended up winning the Oscar for Best Picture. But as for Salvador, it was an oddly-enjoyable time filming down in Mexico -- the "odd" including when the crew when on strike for several hours until they got paid, and when the Mexican Army, which was being used as extras, showed up many hours late. we were filming that day in a deeply out-of-the-way location, and the story we were told is that the Army had gotten lost. I found that hilarious. Though many years later, it occurred to me that it most-likely wasn't true. The Army was probably shaking down the film company for more money. And that's only part of the oddity...
But this is about The Boost, not Salvador. Alas, I don't have all that many other stories to tell about it. Or at least ones that I care to share publicly. The biggest challenge I had was getting Jimmy to sit down to do his interview. He was always rushing around with things to do or that he wanted to get involved with, or...whatever. "Can you come by my trailer tonight at 7:30, that would be much better." (We did a lot of night-filming, hence the late hour.) So, I'd come by then and wait around until, "Sorry, man, it's not good right now, how about we do it at 10." And when that rolled around it was awfully late to talk, so let's try it tomorrow, okay? Once he sat down, though, he was as loquacious as you could want.
Anyway, I just hadn't thought of the movie in a long time, and it leaped out when I saw it listed.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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