Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Blast 'Em (1992)

This documentary is still worth a look 20 years after its release.

The obsession with celebrity has only grown since this 103-minute effort from Canadians Joseph Blasioli and Egidio Coccimiglio came out. Consider how much public attention was focused on actress Lindsay Lohan's life falling apart and the vast amounts of space eaten up by Paris Hilton for being Paris Hilton.

Blast 'Em tells viewers some things that don't come as big surprises. We live in a celebrity culture. Magazines such as People, Us and National Enquirer pay cash for candid shots of the famous, usually Hollywood stars. It suggests paparazzi photographers will do just about anything to get the shot they want.


Greta Garbo is in her last days. Albert Ferreira describes how he kept vigil outside her New York residence, followed her to hospital and grabbed a couple of frames before he was whisked away. The screen legend died days later. Ferreira took her last imaages.


blast 'em also offers how paparazzi to advance their careers. It doesn't hurt to have images of actor X if his new movie has just opened. The photos mean free promotion of his latest project. Actress Sally Kirkland (JFK) describes how she enjoys playing it up for the camera and living the life of a movie star. Kirkland makes an appearance at the Academy Awards and is more than happy to pose before the ceremony.

Most of Blast 'Em centres on Victor Malafronte, a 29-year-old shooter who is just starting out as a celebrity shooter. More established photographers can get by on attending one event a night. Not Malafronte. He's hustling to three or four parties, premieres and tributes. Malafronte is getting plenty of grief from his boss out west for the shots he misses, Jon Bon Jovi being one. "If I miss a shot, I'm screwed," he offers early in the film.

Invading the privacy of celebrities isn't a concern for Malafronte. He feels no sympathy for stars pocketing millions of dollars annually. If he's stiffed by a star at an event, it puts the fire in his belly to track him/her down somewhere else. After all, Malafronte needs the shot. It's all about the picture.


Malafronte is focused on getting shots of Back to the Future star Michael J. Fox and his wife, Tracy Pollan. Fox, another Canadian, rarely makes appearances, Malafronte says. When Fox begins popping up regularly, cash paid for shots of him slumps. But, there's still big bucks to be made for shooting Fox, Pollard and their son. Blast 'Em follows Malafronte as he hustles for that precious shot. "I'm slightly invading the guy's life," Malafronte acknowledges. He parks across the street from the couple's residence. Malafronte talks up the doorman to find out when Fox and Pollan are in town and when they walk their child.

Audiences learn some of the tricks of celebrity phographers. We hear them yell out instructions to the stars. Wave. Put your arm around her. Malafronte explains how it helps to have a celebrity doing something rather than standing still. He berates Bill Murray for just standing around next to Robert DeNiro.

Photos of stars displaying emotions suggested in front-page stories of tabloids have long interested me. Blast 'Em helps explain how they come to be. Malafronte shoots Mary Tyler Moore and Lauren Bacall chatting. His shot of Moore ends up on the National Enquirer to accompany a story about her failed breast enhancement operation in the early 1990s.


There are stars galore in Blast 'Em. I just wish the filmmakers would have identified who they, and the photographers shooting them, were. Yes, folks still know what Madonna looks like, but I didn't recognize Kirkland until I saw her name in the end credits. Who's the guy getting into the limo with two women? What about the photographer with an obsession for the Material Girl? Identify, please.

Based on its ranking on Amazon.com, Blast 'Em isn't a must see for lovers of the stars. It's ranked 243,854 in July 2012. That's too bad. People love celebrities and buy the magazines that feautre their images. It might interest them to see how these pictures come to be.

RATING: 8/10

FUN FACTS: Victor Malafronte's second screen appearance comes 20 years after his debut in Blast 'Em. The Invisible String, a documentary about Frisbee, is in post-production.

Egidio Coccimiglio was in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., in 2012 to shoot Compulsion with Carrie Ann Moss and Heather Graham. He's a native of that Northern Ontario city.

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