Find Your Film Director Spotlight: Hal Ashby (The Last Detail, Being There, 8 Million Ways To Die)

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Image from the Amy Scott directed documentary "Hal."
With Harold and Maude being Bruce Purkey’s all-time favorite film, a director’s spotlight on the great Hal Ashby was inevitable. On the latest episode we spotlight Ashby’s seminal works The Last Detail (1973) and Being There (1979). I also threw a last minute curveball by reviewing his last film 8 Million Ways To Die (1986).

One of the wonderful aspects of researching Hal Ashby’s work the past two weeks was discovering his love for improvisation and spontaneity. Many of his characters, often on society’s fringe, are portrayed with an deep sense of humanity. We may laugh at their flaws and foibles, but once Ashby introduces us to the very soul of these characters, his stories graduate to a refreshingly elevated plane.

There is a ton of comedy (much of which is pretty dark) to be had in both The Last Detail and Being There, but if you want to dig your heels into a much deeper story at play, you won’t be disappointed. Find Your Film co-hosts Bruce Purkey and Eric Holmes discuss Ashby’s “punk rock” aesthetic in filmmaking, and I definitely agree with that assessment. Even a flawed work like 8 Million Ways To Die is an immersive watch.

The images of this post are courtesy of Hal, a first rate documentary that Bruce and I both recommend for viewing. Director Amy Scott delivers an insightful and much needed look into the filmmaker’s career (getting late cinematographer Haskell Wexler as an interviewee is one of the doc’s many selling points). As of this post, Hal is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

If you are hestitant to see 8 Million Ways To Die due to the critical drubbing it has received, give this a shot if you are a fan of Ashby. There is a ton of experimentation within this cop/action thriller flick that is worth a look. I stated that it was a “beautiful mess” on the podcast, but the movie has a ton of attributes. If Ashby had final cut over 8 Million Ways To Die the film would have been so much better (but again, the filmmaker’s creative flourishes did not dim with his final feature).


Are you a fan of Hal Ashby’s work? Please comment below and share your thoughts on the director and his respective movies!

Find Your Film Hal Ashby Episode Breakdown:
1:26 – Bruce Purkey on why he chose Hal Ashby for this director’s spotlight.
2:40 – Bruce on the “canary in the coal mine” aspect of Ahsby’s career.
3:04 – Eric Holmes on his previous knowledge of Hal Ashby’s work. Before this episode, he had only seen was Harold and Maude.
4:00 – Hal Ashby’s only Oscar came as an editor for “In The Heat of the Night.”
5:24 – We discuss “The Last Detail.”
6:48 – “The Last Detail” is a movie “that doesn’t get made much anymore.” – Purkey.
7:42 – Eric doesn’t love the film’s moniker, but he overall enjoyed “The Last Detail” adding that it has a “butt-ton of irony” to it.
11:00 – Bruce on the subtle use of music in “The Last Detail.”
17:00 – On the injustice element of the film.
18:21 – Bruce on Hal Ashby’s empathetic approach to his characters.
19:05 – Eric sees Buddusky’s actions as more selfishing than anything.
22.59 – Just FYI Richard Linklater’s “Last Flag Flying” is a sequel to “The Last Detail.”
26:36 – Hal Ashby fact – first Steadicam shot ever was in Ashby’s “Bound for Glory.”
27:23 – We discuss “Being There.”
29:00 – Bruce loves “Being There” and says it’s comparable to “Idiocracy.”
31:40 – Bruce talks about the comedic aspects of “Being There.”
35:15 – Eric says “Being There” goes a “lot deeper” than “The Last Detail” and he says this movie has more of a rewatchability factor than “The Last Detail.”
36:51 – Bruce sees “Being There” as prophesizing on what the 80s would become and maybe it served as an omen to Ashby’s third act of his career.
39:19 – Bruce talks about the humanity aspect of “Being There.”
40:22 – Eric saw “Being There” as more of a social satire.
42:24 – Both of these movies, as of this recording, are not available for free on streaming. I recently purchased The Last Detail DVD but can’t find it amidst the DVD/Blu-ray pile I call my bedroom!
43:27 – Eric discusses the “punk rock aesthetic” of Hal Ashby’s work.
44:14 – For more info of Hal Ashby’s work, check out the first rate documentary “Hal” which is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
45:00 – Bruce on a thread that may tie much of Hal Ashby’s work.
49:10 – We discuss Ashby’s last film “8 Million Ways To Die.”
60:23 – Eric’s final thoughts on Hal Ashby; he can’t wait to watch more of his movies!
62:10 – Bruce’s offers up his final thoughts on Ashby and offers a “punk rock” pov.
64:00 – Our podcast as well as archival material will be housed on I will be doing more write-ups and archival work on that site so stay tuned!
65:28 – It’s Eric’s turn for our next Find Your Film director’s spotlight and he’s going to profile filmmaker Oscar Micheaux. 

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