' ' Cinema Romantico: If I Could Attend One Table Read...

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

If I Could Attend One Table Read...

If there was a great scene in Ben Affleck’s sports-movie-in-disguise “Argo” it was when CIA specialist Tony Mendez (Affleck), operating undercover as a Hollywood producer of some absurd sci-fi opus giving the movie its title, arrives at The Beverly Hilton for the star-studded read-through. Affleck the director shoots Mendez’s limousine arrival in slow-motion which feels just right, exaggerating the exaggerated hoopla, and scores the sequence to Van Halen’s “Dance the Night Away”, a song in which the melody, Chuck Klosterman once observed, “captures the specific atmosphere of a June evening five minutes before twilight.” It always feels like June in L.A., and it looks like five minutes before twilight across the Hollywood Hills as Mendez strolls through done-up revelers on the hotel terrace. Whether this how read-throughs really go, I don’t know, though I doubt it. And when I first scrolled upon Matt Oswalt’s tweet, this scene “Argo” flitted through my mind before moving on to visions of other table reads. I’d be riding the train, listening to music, and suddenly a movie would pop into my head and I’d think: “I would have loved to see that table read!”

After you get through the overused Twitter jokes of silent movies (or: “A Quiet Place”) in Oswalt’s replies, you get some delightful suggestions, like “Soapdish” (which I didn’t think of) and “A Fish Called Wanda” (which I did). Kevin Kline must be dynamite reading a script through. A few Mel Brooks movies were cited, and so was “Dr. Strangelove”, a solid choice simply to have seen Peter Sellers going back and forth with himself. Then again, aren’t George C. Scott’s facial expressions the best thing about “Dr. Strangelove”? Would you get those when you’re just reading?

Someone answered Oswalt’s query with “Boogie Nights” and that one occurred to me straight away too. I mean, maybe the “Oleanna” table read would have been stunning with William H. Macy and Debra Eisenstadt going back and forth, but who wants to see a two-hander table read? I want my Hollywood read-through to be a kind of purposeful variety show with a hodgepodge of different performers popping up between bouts of the emcee reading the screenplay’s action. And “Boogie Nights” would have been one helluva a read-through revue.

I imagine a similar vibe for “The Big Lebowski.” I mean, you would’ve been in the room realizing Jeff Bridges was doing that before the rest of the world. Plus, there would have been Steve Buscemi occasionally interjecting between mostly turning pages. And I half-wonder if Julianne Moore flatly reciting the word “Vagina” would have been even funnier in an arid Marriott conference room. “Wag the Dog”, one of my favorite screenplays, might have made for priceless in-person eavesdropping too.

Someone offered Oswalt the option of a “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” table read for the opportunity to see a pair of unimpeachable divas – Bette Davis and Joan Crawford (Joan Crawford and Bette Davis?) – basically playing a “High Flying Bird”-ish bout of conversational one-on-one. That’s a good one, though I mind drifted to another Bette Davis selection, “All About Eve”, if only to see whether Marilyn Monroe stole that scene at the read-through just like she did in the movie, and if it made Bette Davis give her the side-eye.

On the flip side, imagine sparks flying between Olivia de Havilland and Errol Flynn at some conference table in Century City during the “Captain Blood” table read. Or imagine Bogey & Bacall going back and forth over Styrofoam cups of coffee during a read-through, though I’d prefer the read-through to be “Key Largo”, to make way for Claire Trevor and Edward G. too, sort of the best radio drama ever but with me in the room.

Steven Soderbergh’s sorely underrated, nigh masterpiece “Ocean’s Twelve” sort of was a table read, in so much as it was just a bunch of famous people cracking each other up for two hours for the benefit of the camera. God, I love that movie. That might be my choice for one table read to experience.

But it’s not. No, if I could go back in time and experience one table read, it would be “Bowfinger.” Maybe because – circling, spiritually, back around to “Argo” – the one table read I most want to see is the table read for “Chubby Rain.”

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